RC Survey

Tony Suchman and Jody Hoffer Gittell

The Relational Coordination Survey is a seven-question instrument based on the theory of relational coordination. Relational coordination is measured by surveying participants in a particular work process about their communication and relationships with other participants in that work process. Because coordination is the management of interdependencies between tasks, and because people are typically assigned to tasks through their roles, relational coordination is typically measured between roles rather than between unique individuals. 

RC Survey is a tool that enables organizations to understand where relationships are strongest and weakest amongst functional groups in a focal work process and can serve as one of the first diagnostic steps in improving performance or as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention.

To gain insight into the measurement and analysis of relational coordination, RCRC partners can read our Research Guidelines.

A Brief History of the RC Survey

RCRC founder Jody Hoffer Gittell has spent the past two decades developing, validating, testing, and refining the relational coordination metric, increasingly joined by colleagues from around the US and beyond. The RC Survey was first developed in 1994 in the context of flight departures. It has been validated for use in flight departures (the original six-item measure), then in healthcare (including "accurate communication" to become a seven-item measure). Using the same seven items, the survey has been used to assess cross-functional coordination as well as cross-organizational coordination and has been used to assess coordination among workers as well as coordination between workers and customers. An alternative shorter measure (with 4 items only) was developed and validated in long-term care.  

Brandeis University spin-off Relational Coordination Analytics, located in Canton, Massachusetts, has built additional capabilities into the RC Survey, including more sophisticated data visualization, the inclusion of the client/patient in the coordination network, cross-site benchmarking and more while remaining closely linked to the RCRC and its mission. 

Using the RC Survey to Foster Change

At the RCRC we are committed to developing relational coordination as an interventional methodology to foster high performance. We support this goal in four ways. First, we have built the RCRC as a learning community that engages in rigorous research to understand the change process. Second, we offer RC Training and RC Certification to support the interventional uses of relational coordination.  Third, we offer access to certified coaches/ consultants to whom you can entrust the sensitive and challenging work of organizational change.  Fourth, we have established Relational Coordination Analytics to support the measurement and diagnosis of relational coordination.

According to organizational development experts Edgar Schein and Tony Suchman: 

"While the RC Survey is validated and well established as a research tool, its use as an intervention is still at relatively early stages of development.  It would be easy to underestimate the complexity of this work. Overly simplistic interventions can cause harm. Reviewing RC scores can elicit shame, defensiveness, projection, triangulation and scapegoating; it can exacerbate conflict and compromise performance. The lower the level of relational coordination (and thus the greater the need for an intervention), the greater the likelihood of a dysfunctional response to the scores."

"As elegant and straightforward as the RC Survey is as a measure, it is not a magic bullet for improving team performance or organizational culture. It needs to be used as one part of a broader intervention that includes longitudinal individual and team coaching, trustworthy processes for relational learning and accountability, and leadership development to assure consistent parallel process across levels of the team or organization. Such work requires the involvement of skilled coaches/consultants with experience in group dynamics, systems work, conflict resolution, and the teaching of emotional self-management. For all these reasons, we urge you not to tread lightly or naively into the realm of interventions. Be prepared to invest the necessary time and resources and be sure you have access to the skills and experience that the work requires."

...this tool provides results that open up a dialogue for clients to self-assess their performance, discover specific areas for change, and begin to develop solutions unique to their particular needs and circumstances.

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