Matrix Management

Managing a team of project managers

The following comment was posted on this blog – I thought I would move it to a separate post as this is a common question.

“I would welcome your thoughts on my position; I am supposed to run a team of project managers who work across the company as and where required. We just took on a second location and my boss set up a project office there with a project manager in charge who does not report to me and has their own portfolio of projects. This site has taken 2 of my team on secondment and are recruiting two more PM’s to report to them with a dotted line to me. I therefore cannot manage my resource. They say this is a matrix structure – but to me it seems like a structure in a structure and is unworkable, what do you think?” Debbie

Kevan Hall responds:

Hi Debbie – this is indeed a matrix and it creates some new management challenges for you. The first is to get your head around this being the new ‘normal’. The most telling statement in your question for me is the phrase “I therefore cannot manage my resource”.

Many managers new to the matrix equate control with management. Just because you do not have 100% control does not mean you cannot manage – it means you will have to develop a range of management skills, including greater use of influence and less of hierarchy. If you think about it, if the only way you can get things done is through authority then you are using a limited range of methods – I suspect you use more than that already in reality.

Its hard for an outsider to know if you have the resources (direct or indirect) you need to achieve the projects you are tasked with, this may be another problem.

My advice – use this as an opportunity to learn matrix management, it will serve you in good stead in your current role and many other organizations – but it is not the same as having 100% control. Don’t get too hung up on the structure, it is the behaviours that make it succeed or fail

Check out our podcast on what is different about matrix management for more ideas.

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