Workflow and process trends in matrix management
Eight trends in matrix management #7 Workflow and process – centralize to decentralize.
At Global Integration, we expect to see matrix organizations becoming more integrated through common workflow and shared processes. Large-scale SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and other systems implementations will mean that individuals, even if they don’t have dual reporting and matrix management responsibilities, will often have a lot of their work activities and practices defined by ‘horizontal’ systems that ensure consistent practices across geography and functions.
Information systems will become more standardized and interoperable. Organizations will be able to take snapshots both horizontally and vertically across the organization and make better business decisions as a result.
A study of IT investments found that the centralization of information and systems was of most benefit to organizations when they use that information to decentralize decision-making. And if they use the information to centralize decision-making, this tends to lead to delay and high levels of escalation.
The purpose of centralising information systems and processes should not be to micromanage and control them centrally, but to export ideas and push information and decisions down to the lowest practical level of the organization, so they can be delivered faster and closer to the action.
We introduced common MRP systems across the organization. It was painful getting people to agree on best practice and many of us felt we were “shoehorned” into the way of working that wasn’t necessarily perfect for us. However, once the project was completed, we did see a lot of benefits. Most importantly, the people on the production line were able to see much more information on stocks, inventories and quality. This helped them make better decisions more quickly and drove a lot of cost out of the system.
Manufacturing Director, Consumer Electronics, Brazil.
If we are not careful, however, large complex systems can become ‘change prevention processes’, where the difficulties in getting changes approved and implemented can make innovation and flexibility almost impossible.
Matrix organizations need to retain scope for local experimentation and innovation even within these large, global systems and make sure that the change process is well resourced and able to respond quickly.
In some cases, a more consistent global workflow business process may actually reduce the need for a formal matrix management system with dual reporting. If the work is coordinated by the process, then we may not require the complexity of multiple bosses to get things done.
In all cases, however, it will lead to individuals working more closely with their colleagues in other functions and locations. So the skills of cross functional and matrix working will become increasingly important.
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