Monkeys Working

The difference between matrix and virtual management skills and ways of working

In our matrix management and virtual teams training we distinguish between skills and ways of working.

  • In skill building we give people the techniques of working in more complex organizations. We train people in what’s different about context, clarity, cooperation, control, communication and community. Skill building tends to be an individual enterprise, people learn either on or off the job and develop personal capabilities that they can bring to the job.
  • Ways of working however are collective. They represent the group expectations and norms that individuals work within. They include things like expectations on meetings, what gets rewarded etc.

If we take a simple example, business meetings. An individual can learn new skills and techniques for managing more effective meetings. They will often reach the end of a training course full of good intentions and ideas.  Unfortunately they return to a group of colleagues who haven’t had the same insights or developments. The collective way of working is hard for one individual to change.

Sticking with our meetings example. One of the things that people learn in our virtual meetings training is that around 20% of meeting participants are usually unnecessary.  It’s rarely hard to spot who these people are, they don’t contribute very much and everyone knows they don’t really need to be there.  However, in real life, meetings are about much more than just doing the work of the meeting. They are an opportunity for visibility, they allow people to feel “involved”.  Telling someone they don’t need to come to a meeting, even when they find it boring, can provoke an emotional response.

Developing new ways of working means intervening directly in these collective contexts, building a common set of expectations about who should attend meetings and how they should run and dealing with some of the byproducts of meetings that people do value such as networking and visibility – if we are not going to do these in meetings, where will we meet this need?

It’s not enough just to build skills; we also need to develop new ways of working. This is an enormous challenge.  Many of our clients have more than a hundred thousand employees so we are trying to enact this level of change at huge scale.  However it’s not something we can ignore; simply giving people skills is not enough unless we build a critical mass that can reach a tipping point of expectations in the collective way of working.

One of the tools we’ve developed to help people with this is the “Better Meetings Campaign” which can help you create a “campaign” to change ways of working in this area.

If you would like to find out more about how you can change ways of working in your organization, why not contact us.

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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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