Interview by Claire Thompson
John Bland is one of Global Integration’s trainers, based out of the UK. He has extensive knowledge of the Far East and Japan, and worked in a matrix structure organization for a large part of his early career.
How did you come to join Global Integration?
I used to work with Procter and Gamble, where I spent a large part of my early career.When I left, I took over a training and consultancy company, East Asia Business Services, based at the University in Sheffield: the training part of my role at East Asia Business Services was the part I had most enjoyed.
Anyone who has started their own company will appreciate how hard it is. I was worked to the bone and not doing the thing I most loved: training.
Global Integration was the answer to my prayers in many ways: I have a great deal of responsibility for my own workload and looking after customers, but without having to worry about the complexities of running a company. Moreover, I can spend more time at the coal face, training.
What’s the link to the Far East?
I lived there for two years whilst working with Procter and Gamble and my business specialised in improving European – Asian business relations.
What do you see as the challenges for people managing in a matrix in future?
There are many challenges, but one is that there is so much information available, through so many channels, and this means that people are moving from a world where they have been used to knowing everything to one where they can’t easily know everything.This means learning to live with ambiguity.When I was younger you could expect to know in principle how most things worked, whereas now you have to be content with not knowing.
Do you think the Matrix will become more popular or is it a passing fad?
I can only see the matrix structure growing in popularity, as companies’ markets become more global.Their structures will necessarily become more complex to reflect this complex world that surrounds them.
I suppose the name we call it by might change – we’ve seen people talking about the networked business – but the challenges remain be the same: customers spread across geographies; expertise, which needs to be made available to others within the business and also outside it but often held in a business silo; outsourcing and open sourcing; and the consequent challenges of managing information and people. They are all ‘soft’ problems, but most businesses will continue to experience them – and it’s how these challenges are managed on a personal and management level that will define success.