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Matrix Management: Leveraging Resistance to Change as an Asset

Author: ; Published: Dec 22, 2011; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: None; One Comment»

While providing training to a group of scientists who are reorganizing into an R&D matrix, I encountered a few who were resistant to matrix management and to the changes that are occurring in the enterprise owing to a variety of factors related to the need to become much more demand-driven and also owing to looming budgetary constraints. One participant was particularly articulate in expressing his reservations about the changes that are occurring. During the session, I encouraged him to share his concerns with the full group so that these could be explored.  I remarked that he seemed somewhat resistant to his new role. I observed that my remark and a possible not-a-team-player characterization made him uncomfortable. I quickly eased the tension heralding that his resistance was a good and necessary thing – a distinct signal that people perceive these changes as real and that change is actually starting to take hold.

 

I said what I meant and I meant what I said. The adoption of matrix management involves people assuming new roles and working these roles in a new configuration of relationships. It’s change…and change has no natural allies. My experience tells me that participants in the matrix organization must be “sold” not only on the benefits of matrix management but, most importantly, they must be able to visualize themselves achieving success as they play their new role, transacting business through relationships with others who are also playing matrix-altered roles. Visualization is powerful. Prior to buying a new automobile, we must be able to visualize ourselves driving that car. Similarly, as we adopt matrix management, people need to be able to visualize themselves achieving success using a different model than the one that has led to success in the past. Mixing metaphors, each player in the matrix organization must be able to visualize themselves driving that new role on a sunny day with the convertible top down.  If they harbor negative fantasies that they will be stuck on the side of the road with a broken-down jalopy in a rainstorm, we’re going to have a heck of a time changing roles, relationships and behavior consistent with the matrix model.

 

In summary, constructive expressions of resistance to organizational change should be welcomed within reason.  These conversations provide golden opportunities to explore the specific difficulties that an employee is having in visualizing herself as being successful in the new matrix-managed order. If there is no resistance whatsoever, you should be concerned unless you’re strolling in the graveyard by yourself. If you are abjectly dismissive of healthy resistance, you miss an opportunity to achieve breakthrough success.  The best approach is to explore useful questions and answer them in an authentic manner to achieve growth and change that benefits everyone.

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One Response to “Matrix Management: Leveraging Resistance to Change as an Asset”


  1. unified communications
    Sep 4, 2014
    11:36 am

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