Number 5 in our summary of the matrix management skills covered in our skills for the matrix training course is influence without authority. In matrix organization structures people have competing priorities and demands on their time.


Matrix working model from Global Integration


We may have solid line (direct reports), dotted lines (indirect reporting) and a plethora of virtual teams and projects. As an individual in a matrix organization I will have several people “bidding” for my time and attention. As a manager I will be trying to influence individuals who I have no traditional line authority over.

In this environment influence with authority becomes a core skill in getting things done.

The first thing to realize is that it is the individual resource doing the work who has to manage the trade-offs. If you have three bosses, all with competing demands the reality is that you are the one who really decides precisely how much effort and attention each strand of work receives.

Managers in this situation cannot just fall back on traditional line control (even if they have it) or the fact that a certain level of effort has been agreed with the individual’s line manager.

Effective influence in a  matrix depends on three things.

  1. Understanding what the individual values – a key mistake in influence is to offer what you think is valuable not what the individual you are trying to influence does.
  2. Understanding what you have to offer. In many work activities there is “something in it for them” which will attract an individual to give the work more attention. It may be technical challenge, variety or just storing up favours for the future. Whatever it is (from the perspective of the individual remember), if you can identify it, you have a potential source of influence.
  3. Understanding your sources of power. If you do not have traditional authority, you need to identify other sources of power to get things done; in a matrix two of the most powerful are expertise and the power of your personal network.

Not everyone finds this comfortable. We meet many managers who bemoan the loss of traditional power and authority and spend a lot of time fighting (vainly) to get back the sense of control they had in the past. We also meet individuals who feel uncomfortable at the pressure they are under to serve multiple bosses.

This is, however. the reality of matrix management.
What methods of influence and sources of power have you found effective?

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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