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Matrix Management and the Matrix Guardian

Author: ; Published: Aug 24, 2010; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , ; No Comments»

umpire

Does your matrix structure need a “Matrix Guardian?” A “Matrix Guardian,” also known as a “Matrix Manager,” is an individual whose job it is to see to it that the matrix structure is functioning effectively and efficiently, and that the principles of matrix management are being applied correctly and fairly. The Matrix Guardian ensures that “good hygiene” is being practiced throughout the matrix structure.

Some of the key functions of the Matrix Guardian are to:

  • Serve as a technical resource to staff, managers, and executives on matrix management practices and issues
  • Conduct periodic inspections to ensure that key matrix success factors such as role clarity, process clarity, are in a state of continuous improvement
  • Function as an ombudsman or arbiter in working through a variety of emerging issues such as chronic staff overwork/underwork or boundary disputes, for example
  • Provide a long-range strategic perspective on the structure and assist in its evolution over time

Consider designating a Matrix Guardian under these circumstances:

  • During matrix management’s early implementation or revitalization
  • When there are challenges of intense internal politics or significant resource skirmishes
  • When there are persistent concerns related to trust and fairness
  • When you want to accelerate and fortify institutionalization of matrix management in a larger organization

How do you staff the Matrix Guardian position successfully? Ideally, the position should be staffed by someone who is thoroughly trained and experienced in matrix management and who is regarded as fair and approachable. The Matrix Guardian should be both mature and discreet—a person with whom people at all levels can converse candidly without fear of hearing their words echoing in the hallway or being communicated to “the boss” when confidential or low-profile problem-solving was the primary objective of the conversation.

One of my first matrix management consulting assignments was that of rehabilitating and re-strengthening a matrix manager in whom R&D personnel had lost trust. Up until the turning point when trust soured, the individual had been very effective in playing the role of Matrix Guardian. The rehabilitation project was a success. This assignment reinforced in my mind the valuable role that a Matrix Guardian can play—when the role is played effectively and when trust is building rather than eroding.

For help with your matrix, please email me at info@strategicfutures.com or call 703/836-8383.

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A Key Benefit of Matrix Management: Scalability

Author: ; Published: Aug 20, 2010; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , , ; No Comments»

nesting dolls

Why are more organizations choosing matrix management? The answer that we are hearing most frequently relates to scalability. Often, the objective is to add new locations that are functioning as intact horizontal matrix teams. Sometimes the objective is to be able to scale up and add new projects.

These organizations want to be able to expand their operations without having to do a new restructuring every time that they increase the number of locations, number of projects, or other indices of growth. 

The good news about matrix management is that it allows such modifications without having to alter the structure or add considerable overhead as part of the expansion process. Most of the time, new locations or new programs can be added without any adjustments to the vertical organization.

As an organization moves to matrix management—prior to an expansion of locations, projects, or other dimensions—employees cannot reasonably be expected to understand immediately the need for the structural shift.  Until expansion has actually occurred, they may instead perceive the move to matrix management as an addition to overhead or superstructure. It is important to explain to employees the benefits sought from the move to matrix management and to offer this explanation plainly and repeatedly. Don’t assume that because you understand the reasoning for the structural change that anyone else will.

Also, don’t assume that explaining it once or twice will do the trick. It won’t.  Many employees will adopt the Missouri “Show Me” attitude and won’t understand the motives behind the move to matrix management until real expansion has actually been executed.  Thereafter, the reason for the change will have been clear to them all along! 

In summary, a key advantage of the matrix structure is that you are able to “snap on” a new horizontal team or any number of teams; up to a point; train up the team members; and then go “live” immediately. 

More and more, scalability is what our clients are seeking when turning to the matrix structure.  While there are other significant benefits of the matrix structure such as maximizing resource utilization, solving complex problems, achieving a flatter organization, and achieving cross-functional synergy, the advantage of scalability is driving many decisionmakers to opt for matrix management.

If you need consulting or training help with your transition to matrix management, please call us, 703/836-8383 or email us at info@strategicfutures.com.

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