Matrix Management

How can the matrix organization be either easy or impossible?

globe connected with lightWe have worked with a large number of pharmaceutical industry clients in the last 10 years to help them implement matrix teams at the level of the product of therapeutic area, or at regional or global level.

Quite often, when they make this move, companies new to the matrix also bring in people from other organizations. Some of this is the normal interplay of people between similar organizations, and some is a deliberate recruitment for new skills.

This leads to some interesting interactions in our workshops.

• The people who’ve never worked in a matrix usually assume that it is some fad (despite being over 40 years old) and it will never work (despite it being used by the majority of the world’s most successful companies). Because matrix management violates some traditional principles you such as unity of command and control, and because it increases complexity in ways of working they are sure it can never be successful.

• In the same room are slightly bemused people who joined from other organizations where the matrix is well-established. To them this way of working is both straightforward and obvious, they can’t imagine being restricted to a narrow silo or not taking a joined up view of value creation across the business. The objections to this way of working seem old-fashioned and pointless.

It can additional complexity if it’s a very senior leader who comes in with a matrix mind-set and tries to make changes to our more resistant traditional organization.

It’s an interesting dynamic for us to manage in the room as we try and use the positive experiences of the people who know how to make the matrix work to change the mind-set of the others.

It also illustrates that the differences is very much in the mind-set. Once you have seen the matrix working successfully it just makes a lot of sense. Once you get used to being able to take a more commercial view of operations across the business and to be involved in a broader business context, you become reluctant to go back to a narrow silo-based way of working.

So if you are new to the matrix, be reassured that it does work, hundreds of leading organizations make it work successfully. Yes there are some new skills and ways of working to master, but in general it leads to broader and more interesting jobs.

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