Matrix Management

Influence without authority and power in a matrix organization

Influence without authorityis a core skill in managing in a matrix organizations structure and is one important element included in our matrix management training program.

Your ability to get things done in a matrix organization structure depends in part on understanding what sources of power you have and when and how to apply them.

First we have to realize which of these types of power we have access to to get things done.

Second we have to consider what will be the consequences of using this style of power on our followers – this is rarely taken into account.

The first three traditional types of power have been rather undermined in the matrix organization structure.

Coercive – use of, or threat of force. This traditional style of power may no longer be available to you, strong worker protection in some parts of the world, or the need to retain talented people may mean this style is normally unacceptable. Even if this style of power is theoretically available to you the impact on your followers may be so negative that it negates the advantages of using it. This style of power may work in an emergency.

Normative– based on values and right to manage – most people accept that there needs to be some authority in organizations and many will buy in to the “values” of good organizations they work for. These “softer” forms of power are extremely useful in large complex organization as they sit in the background subtly influencing decisions “it’s the way we do things around here” – and just as this power becomes more useful it becomes more difficult to develop in large, diverse, matrixed  and multi-site organizations where true values may be different and developing a common approach is more time consuming and expensive.

Presence–  respect for the personal characteristics. This is great if you can develop it and we can all work to improve this one by earning respect. Multi-site and remote working makes this one more difficult to apply in complex companies – so when you do have the opportunity of presence use it to top up the “tank of goodwill” and reinforce relationships – not to deliver PowerPoint presentations to darkened rooms.

Four more useful types of power to develop in a matrix organization structure include:

Expert power – from superior knowledge, skills & abilities. This is a really powerful one, if you are the world expert the matrix will flex around you to access your talent and knowledge.

Position – The power of role still has legitimacy in matrix management (particularly where solid lines make the “real” boss clear) but may increasingly be shared with others or be for short duration projects etc…

Reward – the ability to deliver rewards and punishments – still useful but may share the same limitations as position power above

Relationship – The power of trust, shared goals, sense of identification. These so called soft factors (which are actually hard and very effective) are excellent once you have them but time consuming to build – and easy to damage – particularly in reorganizations. The matrix structure can undermine trust, shared goals and identity. With very diverse groups of employees in different locations and timezones there are many opportunities for misunderstanding and misalignment.

If I was trying to build a power base to get things done as a matrix manager I would focus on expertise and relationships as a great place to start – if you have traditional authority, that is a bonus in the matrix structure.

What types of power work best in your company?

 

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