Validation of the RC Survey

The Relational Coordination Survey meets the psychometric validation standards I (internal consistency II, interrater agreement and reliability III, structural validity II, and content validity II) and is therefore considered to be a fully "validated" measure of teamwork.

Relational coordination is unusual in the sense that it is a fully validated measure of teamwork that can be applied to unbounded teams - teams that span multiple boundaries. Measures that meet these criteria are relatively rare. One other measure that meets these criteria is designed to measure teamwork from the perspective of nurses only. The Relational Coordination Survey has been included in several inventories of measurements, including:

Relational coordination is measured using seven survey questions including four questions about communication (frequency, timeliness, accuracy, problem-solving) and three questions about relationships (shared goals, shared knowledge, mutual respect). These seven dimensions of relational coordination were discovered through qualitative field research. Together these dimensions form the relational coordination construct, which has been fully validated, and is associated with a wide array of performance outcomes.

Respondents from each of the functions most central to the focal work process are asked to answer each of the questions with respect to each of the other functions, with responses recorded on a five-point Likert-type scale: 

Frequent Communication How frequently do people in each of these groups communicate with you about [focal work process]?
Timely Communication How timely is their communication with you about [focal work process]?
Accurate Communication How accurate is their communication with you about [focal work process]?
Problem Solving Communication When there is a problem with [focal work process], do they blame others or work with you to solve the problem?
Shared Goals Do people in these groups share your goals for [focal work process]?
Shared Knowledge Do people in these groups know about the work you do with [focal work process]?
Mutual Respect Do people in these groups respect the work you do with [focal work process]?

To lessen the potential for socially desirable responses to survey questions, note that the relational coordination survey asks respondents to report the behaviors of others as opposed to being asked to report their own behaviors. For example, we ask: “Do people in these groups communicate with you in a timely way about [focal work process]?” Due to social desirability bias, respondents are likely to overestimate the extent to which they communicate in a timely way with other employees, for example, but less likely to overestimate the extent to which other employees communicate with them in a timely way. In addition, relational coordination questions are asked to elicit respondents’ perceptions of typical patterns rather than specific incidents. Finally, in order to reduce the problem of retrospective response error, the questions do not ask for retrospective reports; rather they ask respondents to describe current working conditions. IV

To gain insight into the measurement and analysis of relational coordination, read Relational Coordination: Guidelines for Theory, Measurement and Analysis, available to RCRC Partners

Network Properties

Relational coordination is measured based on a matrix or network methodology in which each cross-functional tie is measured separately. Wouldn’t it be much simpler to ask respondents for a global assessment of each of these seven relational coordination dimensions, rather than creating a measure of relational coordination based on a matrix of specific cross-functional ties? Certainly. Indeed, a recent study in which researchers had access to only a few representatives of each organization, not nearly enough to enable a network measure of relational coordination, instead asked the relational coordination questions more generally about patterns of interaction in the organization as a whole. This study did find statistically significant relationships between the abridged measure of relational coordination and both psychological safety and learning from failures.V

However, the concept of relational coordination is more accurately captured as a network of ties. When respondents are asked to assess the quality of their communication and relationships with all functions globally, a particularly negative connection with one of the other groups could disproportionately influence the overall assessment. By asking respondents to evaluate separately their connections with each other function, the accuracy of measurement is enhanced. Perhaps the most compelling reason for a network measure of relational coordination is the ability to disaggregate the network into its component ties for the purpose of diagnosis and intervention. By measuring each cross-functional tie separately, the researcher reserves the possibility of doing a sensitivity analysis to learn which of the ties has the greatest impact on performance. The researcher can also diagnose for an individual site which ties are weakest. Cross-functional ties that have a significant impact on performance, and that are problematic for a particular site, should become a high priority for managerial attention.

For example, in a study of physician job design, the largest and most significant differences in relational coordination between the old and new physician job design were found in the ties between the physician and other members of the team, rather than among non-physician members of the team, with the biggest impact being on the physician/nurse tie. This type of finding, drilling down to the level of the dyad within the team, is possible with a network measure.


IFor a comparative analysis of relational coordination and other measures of teamwork, please see M. Valentine, I. Nembhard and A. Edmondson (2013), "Measuring Teamwork in Healthcare Settings: A Review of Survey Instruments," Medical Care.

IIThis validation criterion is documented in J.H. Gittell (2002), "Coordinating Mechanisms in Care Provider Groups: Relational Coordination as a Mediator and Input Uncertainty as a Moderator of Performance Effects," Management Science, 48(11): 1408-1422.

IIIThis validation criterion is documented in J.H. Gittell, R. Seidner and J. Wimbush (2010), "A Relational Model of How High Performance Work Systems Work," Organization Science, 21(2): 490-506.

IVTo learn more about socially desirable responses to survey questions, see R. Rosenthal and R.L. and Rosnow (1991), Essentials of Behavioral Research: Methods and Data Analysis. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. To see the rationale for measuring typical patterns of interaction rather than specific incidents, see L.C. Freeman, A.K. Romney, A.K. and S.C. Freeman, S.C. (1987), “Cognitive structure and informant accuracy,” American Anthropologist, 89: 310-325. To learn more about reducing the problem of retrospective response error by asking about current working conditions, see Peter V. Marsden (1990), “Network data and measurement,” Annual Review of Sociology, 16: 435-463.  

VFor results of this study, see Avi Carmeli and Jody Hoffer Gittell (2009). “High Quality Relationships, Psychological Safety and Learning from Failures in Work Organizations,” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(6): 709-729.

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