Matrix Management

Trends: capability pools and activity streams.

Eight trends in matrix management #1. Capability pools and activity streams.

In matrix management are two different types of activity that we need to deliver.

Capability building

Do we have the skills and capabilities we need to deliver the current and future work of the functions and business units of the matrix organization? For example, do we have sufficient trained accountants or engineers?

Much of this is relatively slow to change and takes focus and sustained effort over years.  This is rarely urgent (unless you got it wrong in the past) but always important. This requires on-going professional development and capability building.

Managing activity

How we get things done. Delivering the projects, activities and outputs that generate revenue.

Because the activities we need to deliver change quickly, a formal structural response is usually not fast enough. This requires strong matrix management activity and project management and clear performance measures.

In a project driven matrix organization, this is relatively clear. The capabilities are usually ‘owned’ in the country or function and the project manager is solely responsible for driving activities.

A ‘host manager’ remains responsible for capability building, reward, careers, local communication etc… At the end of the project the individual returns to their host organization, location or function.

Thank you for putting a name to it. I knew I needed to create some form of local community and identity for people from Belgium who are increasingly working on virtual teams and projects. Someone needs to look after their professional development, their local communication needs and their sense of belonging. Now I know that is called “host management” it actually helps me to codify and communicate what I need to do.

Site Director, Global Brands, Belgium

If, however, matrix management and matrix working becomes the norm in an organization, manpower planning becomes a nightmare. Complex organizations have a mixture of multiple virtual team and matrix team membership, projects and relatively stable long-term delivery organizations. An individual in a matrix will have at least two reporting lines and, according to participants in our matrix management and virtual teams training, be a member of an average of five virtual teams.

We need to make sure that we retain focus on both activity and capability and we often see these two imperatives embedded in the matrix manager roles. The vertical leader tends to look after the sense of belonging, professional development and the other host management tasks, whilst the horizontal leader focuses more on activity. The challenge is to bring these two together in a unified approach to goal setting, performance management, reward and career development. These are powerful signals that we send to individuals in the matrix about what we really value and prioritize.

This post is part of a series that will identify eight key trends we see shaping the evolution of matrix organizations and matrix management in the next few years.

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