Agile & Digital / Matrix Management

New – Making the Matrix Work – The agile remix

Combining matrix and agile methods into a new way of working

When we first published our book Making the Matrix Work in 2013 the matrix was often being used to centralize organizations – to break silos, create synergies and make organizations more global.

Centralization is not caused by the matrix (though the matrix is often unfairly blamed for it). The matrix is meant to be flexible and multidimensional, to constantly balance and rebalance the global and the local, the function, the business unit, and the geography.

It is unsurprising that the move to a more consistent and global way of working usually led to a reduction in local flexibility. Many of the same organizations who operated the matrix became attracted by the idea of agility and we saw a significant rise in the adoption of agile working in the second half of the 2010s

There is no evidence however that this replaced the need for the matrix. Organizations still need to be integrated and cost effective, functional excellence remains important.

Even the most radical agile transformations chose to connect together autonomous squads into guilds, chapters and tribes (a matrix by another name) so they remain coordinated.

Digital transformation has also accelerated the need for more horizontal working – digital is no respecter of silo thinking, whilst reinforcing the need for strong capability building in the functions.

The big trick of course is to be simultaneously both connected and flexible, that is what our second edition of MMW – subtitled “The agile remix” is all about.

What changes have we made for the second edition

There is nothing in the first edition that suggests that the matrix should be centralised, and in fact most of the tools and techniques are about empowering people further down the organization to take ownership and action.

In the second edition we wanted to reflect that the objectives of organizations have changed, away from purely becoming more global and more integrated, towards finding the right balance between this and local flexibility, and an understanding that this balance will change constantly over time.

We wanted to create a synthesis between the latest ideas in working agility and the need for organizations to stay connected and integrated.

We also wanted to bring some of the insights and practices from agile and digital ways of working into the matrix managers toolkit, and vice versa. It is clear that we can’t just choose one or the other and we need to bring both of them together.

We have updated the core content with more on balancing connectedness with agility and added all-new chapters on

  • creating alignment (and understanding the limits of alignment)
  • coping with constant change that doesn’t have a fixed end point
  • managing autonomy and autonomous teams
  • understanding the role of middle management (which has largely been ignored in the agile movement) in making the matrix agile

We are optimists on the value of applying many of the tools from both matrix management and agile working. We have not focused just on strict Agile Methodology but also the broader learning and practise on increasing agility and flexibility.

We hope this book will be a practical addition to the toolkit of those of us trying to create an organization that is both connected and flexible.

Find out more about our agile matrix training and how we inspire and enable people to find the right balance.

The book Making the Matrix Work, 2nd edition: The Agile Remix is published on 5th September 2023 and is available for pre-order on Amazon and other online bookstores.

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