Matrix Management

Dealing with power in the matrix

A topic that rarely gets discussed openly in our workshops with clients is the role of power in the matrix.

Maybe it’s a sensitive subject or it feels self serving to discuss it, but it is critical to the functioning of a healthy matrix. We usually have to prompt the discussion and many people are uncomfortable with it.

Particularly when we are new to the matrix, a lot of the legacy power structures and relationships still reflect the past, often more hierarchical and siloed way of working.

There can also be people who feel they are winners and losers in the change to the power dynamic.

For example, country managers who used to have complete control over their own country functions and P&L’s can feel that they have lost control and authority over people in their countries who now have more than one reporting line or don’t report to them at all. They may resist the change as a result.

At senior levels, strong existing relationships can distort the matrix as actual power and influence may not match the new organizational positions.

This is a particular challenge in family owned organizations where deep long lasting relationships and family membership can mean that actual authority is very different from what appears on the organization chart.

In all of these cases we need to be able to discuss the subject openly and agree what balance of power actually meets our objectives in introducing a matrix.

For example, if our objective is to deliver more horizontal and global business processes and all the real authority remains with the local country managers, then we may struggle to achieve our goals.

It can be hard to initiate these conversations, particularly with senior colleagues you know well.

If you need some help in sparking the conversation, give us a call

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