I was recently facilitating a session on Matrix Effectiveness with a sales team from one of our clients. At the end of this, I chatted briefly with the team’s Head of Sales just before he made his closing presentation and I was struck by his statement that “of course, the matrix is less important to us now”. This was surprising as I’d been having a conversation earlier that day with a colleague from their HR function who’d said the opposite. How do we reconcile these two statements?
In a matrix, businesses can expect their formal organizational structures to constantly flex and adapt to changes in their operating environment. This allows them to rapidly alter focus as and when customer or other operating needs dictate. Sometimes, the greater the level of focus required, the ‘simpler’ the structure becomes. In this particular situation, they were shifting from a regional to a business segment focus. This was driven by the unique market conditions of that specific sales area rather than being a company wide phenomenon. So what the Head of Sales really meant was that they were re-organizing to shift focus for this team.
This constant shifting of focus explains why it is that we sometimes see articles in the business press saying that one of our clients has “abandoned the matrix;”. This is doubly puzzling because they’re nearly always companies for whom we’re providing matrix skills training and support!
– Your organizational structures will constantly adapt in response to changes in the business environment;
– There is no virtue in complexity for its own sake; if you can simplify, do so! However, make sure that you don’t confuse ‘simpler & more aligned with our business needs’ with ‘easier to control’;
– Don’t assume that your experience or perspective is universal: your world may be getting more or less complex, but that might not be the case for your colleagues;
– The skills that are required to be effective eg managing competing priorities, engaging and leveraging resources and people without direct authority, dealing with ambiguity and lack of clarity (etc) will remain the same, regardless of structure.
Global Integration focuses on providing teams and individuals with practical tools to apply these skills in a virtual, multi-cultural and constantly evolving business environment, no matter what the environment or organizational structure. Do call us, or use the useful form on the right of this pager (on most devices) to contact us. You can always request our ‘Matrix management’ white paper.