I have a Google alert which tells me about any new mentions of the words “matrix management” or “matrix organization” and I have noticed a steady increase in the number of jobs asking for matrix management skills. Here is one that arrived last week

Experience managing, providing direction, and facilitating in a matrix management environment and proficiency using Microsoft Word.”

Brilliant – the ability to manage highly complex organizations, influence people without authority and do your own typing too!  I mention this not because it is unusual – but because it has become commonplace.

My first boss, Fred,  was a factory worker who had worked his way up to become HR Director of a large manufacturing facility (over 4000 people), he was a great manager to have as a young trainee. He had a lot of credibility and knew the limits of his technical ability in the job, he hired several young university educated managers and both listened to them and supported them – the system worked.

He had a lot of time for coaching, after meetings he would often sit down and review with us what happened and why and to discuss alternatives.  Several of his trainees went on to achieve impressive things in their careers (you know who you are)

One reason he had time for people management was that he did not have many personal tasks to perform. He did not type, file, research his own reports etc… He had a secretary to do that.

Today a typical matrix manager will spend a lot of the day typing and filing (emails) preparing presentations and reports, that is just the way it is in large complex organization thanks to the reduction of administrative resource and introduction of these ‘productivity tools’.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to imagine life in a matrix without these tools but it is a question of how we spend our time.


time on people

Whereas Fred spent 10% of his time on personal tasks and 90% on people management the modern matrix manager may have reversed these proportions. What gets squeezed is the ‘important but not urgent’work of thinking and developing people.

Over that same period however our expectations of leaders has stayed remarkably similar.( More on that later.)

P.S. If you are that recruiter – you can pick up MS word proficiency a lot quicker than matrix management skills

How much of your time do you spend on matrix management versus MS Word?

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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