A Research Companion
Edited by Olympia Kyriakidou and Mustafa F. Özbilgin
Chapter 5: Relational Coordination: Coordinating Work through Relationships of Shared Goals, Shared Knowledge and Mutual Respect
5 Relational coordination: coordinating work through relationships of shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect Jody Hoﬀer Gittell Introduction In Thompson’s (1967) seminal work on organizations, he argued that eﬀective coordination in highly interdependent work settings is characterized by ‘mutual adjustment’ among participants, as outcomes from one task feed back and create new information for participants performing related tasks. However Thompson saw mutual adjustment as playing a limited role in organizations (Kogut & Zander, 1996). Because mutual adjustment is prohibitively costly, Thompson argued, coordination more commonly occurs through coordinating mechanisms such as supervision, routines, scheduling, pre-planning or standardization. These coordinating mechanisms enable organizations to achieve coordination while minimizing interaction among participants (Tushman & Nadler, 1978; Galbraith, 1977). Due to their limited bandwidth (Daft & Lengel, 1986), these mechanisms are typically argued to be most eﬀective in settings with low levels of task interdependence and low levels of uncertainty (Thompson, 1967; Argote, 1982; Van de Ven et al., 1976). Increasingly however work is characterized by high levels of task interdependence, uncertainty and time constraints, expanding the relevance of high bandwidth coordination beyond what Thompson had foreseen. But because it was expected to be the exception rather than the norm, the microdynamics of this form of coordination are seriously underdeveloped relative to our current need to understand them. Organizational scholars have begun to explore the micro-dynamics of coordination through theories of sensemaking (Weick, 1993; Weick & Roberts, 1993; Crowston & Kammerer, 1998), expertise coordination (Faraj & Sproull, 2000; Faraj & Xiao, 2005), transactive memory (Liang et...
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