We already had a matrix, but now it’s serious!
We’ve had a number of calls from new and existing clients in the last few months with a similar theme. Many organizations tried to become more integrated following the financial crash and introduced a matrix organization or matrix management to try to share resources more effectively across the traditional vertical silos of function and geography.
They announced an organization change and started to rearrange reporting lines. In some cases, but by no means most, they ran corporate communications to make sure that people were clear about the reasons for the change and the implications.
They started to invest heavily in systems to support this more integrated way of working. Virtually all of them are spending heavily on SAP, Oracle or other systems implementations.
But it’s only now that the matrix structure is starting to “bite”. People were so used to reorganizations that their response to another one was often just to keep quiet, keep their heads down, and wait for the next one. However, once we try to really operate in a more integrated way, we realise that skills are every bit as important as systems and that culture trumps strategy and structure every time.
On our matrix management training programs we ask people to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the matrix for both the organization and the individual. The disadvantages are usually exclusively about the way people work together – too many meetings, unclear decision rights, lack of accountability, etc.
Never on these lists of disadvantages does it say “our SAP processes are not clear” or “our organization charts are difficult to understand.”
With a great historical perspective the tens of thousands of people working on systems implementations, these things usually do work eventually and have been successfully used by thousands of organizations. What makes the difference between matrix management success or failure is more about ways of working, skills and mindsets.
As business goals and activities increasingly cut across the organization horizontally, people are having to take on real joint accountability for results when they don’t have control over the resources. They have to exercise influence without authority rather than rely on old-fashioned command and control management.
As goal setting, measures of success and career development start to be decided jointly by the different legs of the matrix; people now really have to pay attention.
Now that the matrix is starting to really change behaviours and the force people to think and work horizontally across the business we are seeing a greater emphasis on skills. Those organizations that don’t take this next step may well find themselves reorganising again and blaming the structure in the next couple of years.
It’s a bit like the systems point above. The matrix does work. In fact it is used by around 90% of the world’s leading organizations, and nearly all of the global ones. If you’re having problems making the matrix work there’s a good chance it’s down to your corporate culture and the skill base and attitudes of your people.
You won’t fix that with software.
- Take a look at out matrix management training page for a little more on why matrix management matters
- Take a look at Kevan Hall’s book, Making the Matrix Work
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