Brandeis Innovation

Jody Hoffer Gittell

Professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management

From the classroom to the workplace, our way of living always involves some element of coordination and cooperation to accomplish our goals. How we work with others is an essential factor in determining the success of those collective efforts. Being able to measure and monitor these interactions, therefore, becomes important to optimizing workplace dynamics.

How people do their work together has always been of keen interest to Jody Hoffer Gittell, PhD., Professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Since childhood, Jody’s interest in how people work together led her towards a career in academic research, studying workplace interactions and processes. Her learnings and experiences led to the development of her Relational Coordination (RC) theory – coordinating highly interdependent work through shared mutual values and based upon high quality relationships and communication.

Relational Coordination – Benefits and Initiatives

What sets Relational Coordination apart is its simplicity as a tool. By making relationships and communication highly measurable and being focused around collecting information from real people doing work, Relational Coordination accurately captures people’s experiences within the workplace.

With the desire to broaden Relational Coordination’s reach, Jody created the Relational Coordination Collaborative (RCC). By helping to translate RC’s research into practice, RCC supports others in utilizing RC beyond Jody’s own work as well as enabling others to connect with one another and share their findings.

While RCC’s efforts focus on building a broader network of connections, the tool providing monitoring and analytics services was spun-out from Brandeis as Relational Coordination Analytics (RCA) in 2013– that helps clients optimize their organization’s workplace interactions from learnings based on data captured within their work environment.

Among their measurement-related offerings includes the RC Survey instrument. Designed for any quality improvement or transformation initiative, it offers a simple, effective method to gather data, relaying the results in a highly visual, userfriendly way.

Impact and Challenges

Since RC’s conception, the theory has been implemented across a wide range of industry sectors, from specialized healthcare, to commercial businesses, social services and education.

Jody’s work with Relational Coordination, especially with RCC, has fulfilled her intention – bringing people together across multiple research areas and practices. Today, her work continues to evolve to address current shifts in the way people work. Besides navigating the RC-related challenges associated with client organizational interactions, her research findings within the healthcare sector revealed some significant correlations between relational coordination, work-life balance and burnout. As seen during the pandemic, the ability to work together serves as a protecting factor, creating resilience during times of crisis

What’s Next?

Looking forward, as she develops and scales her efforts, there’s no doubt the future of our workplaces will feel the influence and potential impact from its ever-expanding reach across the world.

“I’ve always been interested in how people do their work together. That started by growing up on a farm, where I lived in a workplace and was involved on a daily basis as a small child. I took that interest throughout my schooling, in how people basically form a community together.” — Jody Hoffer Gittell