Relational Coordination Collaborative

Feb 22 - Building and Sustaining Relational Coordination at Scale

Opportunities for Theory, Research and Practice

RC Cafe - February 22, 3:00-4:00 pm ET

  • Jody Hoffer Gittell, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
  • Marjorie Godfrey, Institute for Excellence in Health and Social Systems, Univ. of New Hampshire
  • Dan Slater and Judith Merel, Atrius Health
  • Shellie Ellis, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Implementation Impact Research Collaborative 

Traditional bureaucratic organizations don't work well in dynamic environments, but they have the advantage of being highly scalable and sustainable. Relational organizations are highly effective in dynamic environments, but they are also more challenging to scale and sustain.  Relational coordination theory therefore focuses attention on the design of relational structures including shared meetings, shared protocols, shared accountability, shared information systems, boundary spanner roles, and hiring and training for teamwork.  These structures are expected to support relational coordination over time and at scale, with growing empirical evidence about how they work (Abu-Rish Blakeney et al, 2019; Bolton, Logan & Gittell, 2021; Gittell, Seidner & Wimbush, 2010; Gittell & Douglass, 2012; Gittell, 2016; Lee & Kim, 2020; McDermott, Conway, Cafferkey, Bosak & Flood, 2019; Siddique et al, 2019). 

In this Cafe we explore how to scale and sustain relational coordination using relational structures and practices that are intentionally designed for this purpose.  We will hear three examples of how this works in practice, from highly advanced to just starting out:

  • Margie Godfrey and her team at the Institute for Excellence in Health and Social Systems at University of New Hampshire are in their 6th year of strengthening coordination between the organizations that deliver care to people who are living with cystic fibrosis, with a particular focus on the lung transplant process.  They are leading this improvement work across the United States.
  • Dan Slater, Judith Merel and the primary care practice at Atrius Health are starting their second year of strengthening relational coordination in remote teams that are responsible for patient access, and beginning to expand this work from pediatric to adult primary care.
  • Shellie Ellis and the precision oncology team at Kansas University Medical Center are developing a toolbox for precision oncology teams to strengthen relational coordination in the diagnosis and delivery of cancer care, starting at the academic medical center with the goal of sharing with rural hospitals around the state.

Join us as we listen to our guest speakers, engage in Q&A, then discuss in breakout groups for researchers and practitioners.  What are the opportunities to advance your practice of relational coordination?  What are the opportunities to advance your theory building and research?

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Background Readings

Abu-Rish Blakeney, E., Lavallee, D. C., Baik, D., Pambianco, S., O’Brien, K. D., & Zierler, B. K. (2019). Purposeful interprofessional team intervention improves relational coordination among advanced heart failure care teams. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 33(5), 481-489.

Bolton, R., Logan, C., & Gittell, J. H. (2021). Revisiting relational coordination: A systematic reviewThe Journal of Applied Behavioral Science57(3), 290-322.

Gittell, J. H., Seidner, R., & Wimbush, J. (2010). A relational model of how high-performance work systems workOrganization Science21(2), 490-506.

Gittell, J. H., & Douglass, A. (2012). Relational bureaucracy: Structuring reciprocal relationships into rolesAcademy of Management Review37(4), 709-733.

Gittell, J. H. (2016). Transforming relationships for high performance: The power of relational coordination. Stanford University Press.  Chapter 13: Structural interventions

McDermott, A. M., Conway, E., Cafferkey, K., Bosak, J., & Flood, P. C. (2019). Performance management in context: Formative cross-functional performance monitoring for improvement and the mediating role of relational coordination in hospitalsThe International Journal of Human Resource Management30(3), 436-456.

Siddique, M., Shaib, S., & Khan, Z. (2020). High performance work practices to support relational coordination: Evidence from Pakistan. Business & Economic Review, 12(2), 19-50.