Matrix Management

What’s the difference between the partial matrix and the full matrix?

Puzzle Piece

I’ve had conversations with a couple of clients recently who claim not to have matrix organization because not everyone is matrixed.

In my experience the “full matrix” is a myth, I have never come across any organization where everyone in the business is in a matrix. In fact this would be a dangerous and unnecessary exercise.

In any organization, even the most global, the vast majority of people – 85% or more, have purely local jobs. These are the people we call the “locally loyal”, they work in your factories, service centres, local offices, local sales regions etc. In general the matrix adds nothing to these roles but complexity.

If you have first-line supervisors or people in these roles with dual reporting you have probably introduced unnecessary complexity.

Our rule of thumb is that dual reporting should only be applied to what we call the “matrix middle” – those people usually only 2 or 3 layers down from the heads of functions, business units or regions.

So in practice every matrix is a partial matrix. Some of the tricks of a successful matrix structure are to make sure that you:

1. protect the locally loyal from the impact of the matrix
2. only use the matrix where it adds value – even some middle management roles may be locally focused.
3. focus on developing the skills and ways of working of the matrix middle

Some of your locally loyal may need to operate across the organization in matrix or virtual teams but in general having dual reporting to more than one boss is unnecessary.

Realizing this early can cut out a great deal of complexity from a matrix implementation. If you want some help diagnosing who is included in your matrix middle and who is not, give us a call.

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