Matrix Management

Changing mind sets about matrix management

I’ve been running a number of quite short sessions on matrix management at marketing conferences, senior leadership events and executive committee meetings recently. The keynote sessions themselves may be less than an hour but the discussions afterwards have been really interesting.

In such short sessions I tend to focus on giving some key concepts that will change mind sets and a couple of tools that people can take away immediately to reinforce the change.

What’s been striking is the number of emails I’ve received from people saying that the short sessions have really increased their confidence about matrix management and changed their attitude towards it.

One example is an interactive session we run on managing accountability without control. Most experienced managers see having accountability without control as a major problem in the matrix. However, by getting the group to think through the different consequences of different levels of accountability and control it soon becomes evident, and obvious, that accountability without control is not an unintended consequence of the matrix but the whole point of it. You can see more about this in my book ‘Making the Matrix Work’.

Similarly, some simple tools on defining decision making rights and processes can cut through the significant delays to decision-making that often accompany the introduction of a matrix structure.

We talk about the difference between a matrix manager (someone who takes ownership and actively manages the ambiguity of the matrix) and the matrix victim (who waits passively for someone else to solve the problem).

It’s a feature of the matrix that when you have more than one boss or work on multiple teams then you may be the only individual who has a full understanding of your goal and roles. This means that you are probably the only individual that knows that you have conflicting goals or objectives that compete for your time and attention in a way that you can’t resolve.

You should certainly be the person with the highest level of motivation to raise the issue and make sure it’s resolved.

Because of this, individuals at the point of intersection of the matrix need to take much more ownership for their own goals and be much more active in seeking out the clarity they need to be successful.

This message seems to be very empowering for individuals who have previously felt trapped by an expectation that someone else was going to solve their problems. In fact, a McKinsey survey last year showed that the more people were matrixed, the higher their levels of engagement.

This was something I predicted in my book as successful matrix management requires empowerment, trust and a higher level of job ownership as well as providing greater breadth and exposure for individuals who want it.

It’s surprising how much you can change a mind set simply by changing the way people look at issues and giving them some simple tools to apply. It’s also very rewarding to see the impact you can have quickly on individuals.

If you like to find out more about building a matrix mind set please get in touch.



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