energizing breakthrough performance

Matrix Management: Synergistic Optimization and Vertical Integration

Author: ; Published: Jul 18, 2013; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: ; One Comment»

This entry is written at the behest of a commenter’s suggestion that I expand on a previous blog entitled Matrix Gold: Mining for Synergy in Cross-Functional Teams. I appreciate the suggestion. In Matrix Gold, we explored matrix management benefits such as greater efficiency and productivity; discovery breakthroughs; and the widening of comfort zones.  There are at least three other kindred opportunities which warrant discussion.


First, conscious pursuit of synergistic optimization should thwart inadvertent incompatibility between or among vertical functions.  In this way, we provide a solid foundation for maximizing vertical interoperability with respect to areas including but not limited to policy; procedure; systems; timing; and resource scheduling to name a few. If vertical integration doesn’t translate into vertical interoperability, what are we talking about?!


Previously invisible, barely visible, or otherwise inexplicable frictions between or among verticals should be surfaced and resolved to optimize synergy.  More colloquially, if one vertical is driving on the left and another is driving on the right, there will be collisions.  There are plenty of examples where a lack of interoperability degenerates into interpersonal conflict or worse, avoidance of inter-vertical interaction at multiple levels – impersonal, interpersonal and personal to use Kofman’s useful framework from his book Conscious Business.


Second, “mission creep” or “boundary creep” tendencies can be spotted early on when there is conscious focus on synergistic optimization.  Such mission or boundary creep  often does not emanate from ulterior motives such as “empire building;” instead such creep tends to emerge on the basis of evolving strategies, tactics, technologies, supplier relations, relations between R&D and manufacturing,  between Marketing and Production, and who knows what else. The organic adjustment of any organization to the cumulative effects of day-to-day intervertical transactions most often occurs on an   “unconscious,” sympodial basis.  At some point, crunchy implications for structural change “suddenly” burst into executive awareness usually occasioned by a critical incident.  The constant quest for synergy spots these developments early on: “Jurisdictional disputes” among verticals which are competing dysfunctionally with one another can be arrested through a thorough examination of vertical boundaries and how these boundary definitions affect the attainment of synergy now and in the projected future. The examination is often the cure itself inasmuch as it  provides a solid basis for transforming destructive tension into constructive tension.


Third, and on a related note, opportunities for decreasing costs and increasing impact can be discovered when our pursuit of synergy reveals opportunities for appropriate boundary adjustments to a given vertical or verticals.  Are there beneficial possibilities for consolidating the missions and functions of two previously discrete verticals which have developed over time?  Alternately, has the complexity, size, and/or importance of a particular vertical evolved to such an extent that it now makes sense to subdivide a vertical into two or more new verticals? Keeping a close eye on synergistic integration allows adjustments to be made ahead of the curve rather than getting stuck behind the curve with the attendant wasted time, money, and tension.

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