Do you have matrix working or a matrix structure?
Strictly speaking, a matrix organization structure is defined as where you have more than one formal reporting line (whether dotted or solid). So if you don’t have more than one boss, you don’t work in a matrix organization structure.
However, we are finding that, in practice, people in large organizations are using the word “matrix” to describe the whole complex way of working that cuts horizontally across functions and geography. Matrix working, increasingly, means working in virtual teams across distance, cultures, time zones and through technology and where formal organization structure doesn’t really reflect the flow of work.
The vast majority of large global organizations operate some form of matrix structure. If you have an organization that reflects function, geography and business lines at senior levels then it’s very likely that these intersect further down in the organization. There are also more and more structures that cut across the organization horizontally – such as supply chain global accounts. These usually imply some form of matrix.
However, if we take the second definition of “matrix working” – this is everywhere. The vast majority of managerial and professional people in companies of any size now spend at least part of their time working in cross-functional or virtual teams. We’ve even had clients talking to us as they open their second location within the same country as this creates a step up in complexity for leaders and teams.
It’s surprising then that so little of the leadership or team building training that we do reflects this reality. Since we developed the world’s first virtual teams training course back in 1994 we have trained over 100,000 people in these skills. In most cases, our training was the first time people had any skill building that reflected the reality of collaboration that they work in every day. Many participants have never really thought that the very nature of teamwork and collaboration needs to change in the absence of much face-to-face contact.
Matrix working is the norm in complex organizations. Do your skills and ways of working reflect this reality?