Eight trends in matrix management #5 Paving the social paths
Social media has already transformed marketing and service delivery over the last few years. It cuts across traditional organizational boundaries of communication (the typical reason for introducing matrix management in the first place) and changes the nature of trust. Customers are now more likely to trust the opinions of other people like them than the messages put out by corporate marketing organizations.
We should expect social media in a matrix management set up to have some similar impacts on internal communication and hierarchies.
In terms of matrix organization design, we should expect to see the spontaneous growth of networks and communities to add context and relevance to communication and cooperation. In the social world, people choose who to ‘follow’, connect and pay attention to, irrespective of whether these connections cross traditional organizational and hierarchical boundaries. In this way, the use of social media should encourage the kind of behaviours that matrix management is designed to elicit.
We should expect this to change the nature of communication and hierarchy.
Social media, on its own, presents the opportunity to deliver many of the benefits that we are looking for in introducing a matrix organization structure.
It used to be hard to work out who were the experts in the organization on a specific topic and also hard to access them. Now we have an internal system where we can search on people’s profiles and quickly identify who is involved in which project or who has expertise in the specific area. We can reach out and send a message instantly. The old silos and barriers to communication disappear.
Social Media Manager, Telecommunications
When architects design the grounds of a building development, they face a choice. They can either put in paths where they think people will walk, or wait to see where people actually walk and then pave these areas. Architects use simulations of human behaviour to anticipate where people will actually walk as part of their designs.
In a socially connected world, where we choose who to follow and to pay attention to, technology enables the development and maintenance of these networks at low-cost. We should expect to see different patterns of connection develop within our organizations based on use of this technology.
One option, instead of trying to direct or anticipate these networks, is to wait and see what networks form and then structure around the network that people actually find useful in getting things done, to ‘pave the social paths’ that people really use to get things done.
At Global Integration, we expect that social media to encourage and embed the ‘matrix mindset’ – the set of behaviours and attitudes that encourage cooperation across the silos and make matrix management really work.
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