Relational coordination

Theoretical frame

Relational coordination is a research model proposed by Gittell in 20021. The author used the model to assess organizational coordination in four airlines in the United States, although it has also been applied to other sectors, such as the health sector.

Ten practices constitute the antecedent variables to the model. These are:

  • Leadership with credibility and caring
  • Investing in frontline leadership
  • Hiring and training for relational competence
  • Using conflicts to build up relationships
  • Bridging the work / family divide
  • Creating boundary spanners
  • Measuring performance broadly
  • Keeping jobs flexible at the boundaries
  • Partnering with unions
  • Building relationships with suppliers

Any organization can manage those practices in order to increase the level of relational coordination between their employees. The core of relational coordination is based on the iterative nature between both relationships and communication in the workplace.

  • The quality of the relationships maintained by the different groups of employees between themselves is based on three variables:
    • shared goals
    • shared knowledge
    • shared respect
  • The quality of their communication is also based on three variables:
    • frequency of communication
    • timing of communication
    • problem-solving orientation of the communication

A higher level of relational coordination will then affect organizational outputs, of which two were of interest to Gittell during her research:

  • Efficiency of departure operations
  • Quality of departure operations
1. GITTELL Jody Hoffer (2002). The Southwest Airlines way. McGraw-Hill (New York, USA), 2005. ISBN 9780071458276.

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