Partner Cafe Archives


Organizational Resilience in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

RCRC June 2020 Partner Cafe

Kenny Cole, Ochsner Health
Rushika Fernandopulle, Iora Health
Alice Andrews, Value Institute for Health and Care
Heather Gilmartin, Denver/Seattle Center for Innovation, Veterans Health Administration
Jen Perloff, Institute for Accountable Care, Brandeis University

Jody Hoffer Gittell, RCRC, Brandeis University

Resilience - the ability to “recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” - is a valuable  asset in times of  crisis. Positive relationships provide resilience by affecting the hormonal, cardiovascular and immune systems of the body, thus enhancing health and well-being (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003, Positive Organizational Scholarship). Positive relationships also provide organizational resilience by affecting our ability to share information and coordinate work under pressure.

A handful of studies have shown that financial factors are also critically important for organizational resilience. A post-9/11 study of airlines showed that resilience requires both relational and financial reserves (Gittell, Cameron, Rivas & Liu, 2006, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science). 

In the June Cafe, we will explore health system resilience in the face of the pandemic and ask which models are most resilient both relationally and financially. We consider value-based care models that rely less on low-value elective surgeries, and focus more resources on building high quality relationships with patients to achieve wellness, supported by high levels of relational coordination among care providers and high levels of relational leadership. How can we rebuild our health systems in a way that is more relational, more inclusive, and more resilient?

Relational Society - Are we all in this together?

RCRC May 2020 Partner Cafe

Shyamal Sharma, RCRC Brandeis University
Robert Kahn, Cincinnati Childrens Hospital
Jacob Storch, Joint Action Analytics
Ninna Meier, Aalborg University

Jody Hoffer Gittell, RCRC, Brandeis University

Relational Society is a state of generalized reciprocity and robust social capital, created through goodwill, empathetic fellowship and virtuous social interactions among all entities, whether individuals or organizations, in a community as parts of a whole. Thus, we are a product of our environment in every small and large measure, individually and collectively.

Organizations are embedded in this larger social context and it is currently at grave risk. In a pandemic, the moral and economic imperatives of the solidarity of the human condition belong most urgently in the context of health care. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. was already struggling with health disparities arising from social determinants of health that put minorities and low-income populations at risk of adverse health outcomes, severely compromising their quality of life and overall well-being.

The pandemic has laid bare these inequalities, calling our attention to the urgent need for rebalancing of social values toward a more sustainable, more relational society, in addition to our evolutionary survival as a species in the longer term. We are ultimately bound by a common destiny and it is in our hands how we shape it; we are all in this together.

In this RC Cafe, we come together to learn how some of our RCRC partners are advancing these ideals through their tireless efforts, as they evolve within their local context during this historic crisis and beyond.

The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership

RCRC April 2020 Partner Cafe

Rosa Carrillo, Carrillo & Associates Safety Leadership Consulting

David Christenson, Paradigm Human Performance, The Taos Institute
Skip Grieser, Air Traffic Controller (Retired); Colorado State University
Nate Woods, GE Aviation Ethiopia, Antioch University

Jody Hoffer Gittell, RCRC, Brandeis University

The Coronavirus has helped us to appreciate our common capabilities and limitations in very new ways. Interest in safety and health from our global, national, and local community is surfacing in response to this new threat. We plan to introduce the latest perspectives on safety and health in a complex, fast changing environment.

Communication failures are at the heart of most health, safety and environmental incidents. Thus, trust and transparency are essential to surviving this pandemic. How do holistic relational perspectives help us understand others and collaborate with a genuine interest in addressing common issues? How can leaders respond?

Relational coordination can provide a general framework to focus and start positive conversations that reveal interdependence and build relationships. Adding appreciative inquiry to the dialogue helps to bring out the specifics that generate empathy and efficacy. Emotional and social intelligence learning opportunities may surface. 

Principles from humble inquiry, psychological safety, high reliability organizing, human organization performance, safety differently, and resilience engineering shape social relations within families, neighborhoods, as well as workplace tribes. These perspectives can help to enhance physical safety by strengthening connections across traditional tribal boundaries and common polarities.

In short, while crisis intensifies risk, it also provides an opportunity for leaders to strengthen relationships. Join us to learn and share lessons for creating workplaces and communities that are psychologically and physically safe.

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Extreme Teaming and RC - Substitutes or Complements for Solving Ill-Structured Problems?

RCRC March 2020 Partner Cafe

Carsten Hornstrup, Joint Action Analytics
Daniel Massie, Norwegian Business School

Jody Hoffer Gittell, RCRC, Brandeis University
Ragnhild Kvålshaugen, Norwegian Business School 

Relational approaches to coordination are well-suited for addressing ill-structured problems (ISPs). ISPs are problems that are blurred, do not have a clear solution pathway, can productively be understood from diverse perspectives and are riddled with uncertainty, complexity and interdependencies (Simon, 1973). Two streams of research; Relational Coordination Theory (Gittell, 2002) and Extreme Teaming (Edmondson & Harvey, 2018), offer insights into collective coordination processes of coping with ISPs. 

Relational Coordination Theory illuminates coordination as a mutually reinforcing process of communicating and relating for task integration (Gittell, 2002), especially impactful under conditions of high uncertainty, interdependence and time constraints. RC is a network of ties between roles and/or organizations that enables participants to see and act in terms of the whole. There is strong empirical support for both the outcomes of relational coordination and the management practices that help to support it, such as shared accountability, shared rewards, relational job design and relational leadership (e.g. Gittell,  Seidner & Wimbush, 2010; Gittell & Douglass, 2012). 

Extreme Teaming (ET) describes a process and principles for effectively integrating diverse professionals and skill sets around complex challenges. ET provides relevant insights for understanding how teams come together and productively carry out problem-solving (Edmondson & Harvey, 2017). This is especially important when dealing with ISPs. The integration of different professional perspectives, knowledge sets and capabilities, in finding competent and innovative solutions, is helping professionals to engage as a collective, in solving the most pressing and complex problems (Edmondson & Harvey, 2017). Extreme teaming gives us a good understanding of how diverse cross professional teams can come together to productively engage in problem-solving processes and helps us understand how cross-professional and cross-organizational team-based arrangements, with fluid membership, can develop a capacity for coordination and act as a collective.

In this Cafe we will explore the synergies and complementarities between these two theories and the implications for practice.

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RCRC Roundtable10th Annual 2020 RCRC Roundtable
Building a Relational Society
VIRTUAL EVENT | Nov 4-6, 2020