Matrix Management

Video: Can you be accountable without control?

Welcome to the latest Global Integration video, which examines the question: Can you be accountable without control?


One of the common complaints that we hear from managers new to working in a matrix is “how can I be accountable for something I don’t control?”. Very often this is a sign of resistance to the matrix. In reality all of us are accountable for things we don’t completely control in life.

Span of accountability is the breadth of things that we are responsible for delivering.

Span of control is about the level of control we have over the resources we need to get these things done.

Even in a traditional organization we often rely on others to play their part in order to achieve results. In a matrix, this is even more so. But if we think about the balance between span of accountability and span of control there are only three options, and each of them drives very different set of behaviours:

The first option is that your accountabilities are smaller than the resources you control. What would this mean? In this case it’s probable that you are under-performing perhaps hoarding resources that could be used more effectively elsewhere. This is not a desirable situation.

The second option is that you have a direct match between your level of accountability and level of control. This can lead to efficiency, we are able to just get on and do the work without relying on others. However, in a matrix, work often crosses traditional vertical silos of function and geography and if each of us is only looking at our own narrow area then we may miss critical issues that fall between the gaps.

The third option is that where accountabilities are broader than the resources they control. At first glance this may seem difficult, but think about the behaviours that this requires. If we need to access resources that are outside our control we need to think more broadly, we need to seek out other resources and work with others in order to be successful. These are exactly the behaviours we want to encourage in a matrix!

In our matrix management training, we show individuals how to structure their goals to take advantage of these insights – to focus on matching accountability and control where we need efficiency in delivering our own functional work, but preferring broader accountabilities when work crosses the traditional silos.

We often find that concerns about control are signals that managers don’t feel comfortable getting things done without traditional hierarchy. If your people are concerned about this then the solution is likely to lie in skill building.

See an interactive graphic of our matrix management learning path and the content of our training modules on these topics.

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