energizing breakthrough performance

Matrix Management: Avoid the Activity Trap by Using the Matching Principle

Author: ; Published: Aug 5, 2013; Category: Collaboration, Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management, Mentoring, Uncategorized; Tags: None; No Comments»

Faster, better, cheaper summarizes the top strategic priority for nearly every enterprise. That said, we can sometimes forget that achieving better and cheaper, let alone breakthrough innovation and differentiation, requires episodic changes in organizational and personal speed. Stated differently, we must sometimes slow down in order to speed up if we are to make quality and cost containment improvements. A single, chronic, unvarying speed is not appropriate to all circumstances.


It seems to me that we too often set our velocity – organizationally and personally – calibrated to the velocity of incoming messages on our handheld device. This can result in an activity trap that is more mind-numbing than mindful.. Stated in vehicular terms, an automobile which only had one speed – apart from “stopped” – would either be hitting other vehicles or being hit by other vehicles all too often. Such collisions happen in organizations as well and yet many of us act surprised at the consequences of incessant racing.  Matrix management success requires the ability to adjust speed deftly if only because cross-functional teams are sharing resources more intricately than in a siloed hierarchy.


There’s a matching principle in finance, which requires that we match long-term financing with long-term debt.  There’s also a matching principle in accounting. That said, there’s a matching principle for management which is highly important in exercising leadership in a high-performance matrix organization. This matching principle is evidenced by and consistent with MBTI and other personality profile approaches and instruments.


A practical, simplified view of these useful instruments is that there are times to be more task-focused than people-focused and vice versa.  Similarly, there are times to be caffeinated and there are times to be de-caffeinated. If the executive needs to be in an analytic mode, the correct flex is towards the de-caffeinated/task focused approach.  If we are coaching an employee to higher performance, we need to take a de-caffeinated/people-focused approach. If we are seeking the outer limits of innovation, we need “big sky” thinking that is caffeinated and a mix of tasks and people, with emphasis on bringing out people’s best thinking.  Finally, if we are prosecuting a sturdy and established agenda, the caffeinated task-focused approach generally works best.


Deft leadership of the matrix organization requires that leaders flex their velocity and focus depending on the nature of the challenge.  This is true in a traditional hierarchy, but it is even truer in a well-tuned, more sensitive and interdependent matrix organization. One size doesn’t fit all, and one speed doesn’t either. It’s easy to forget this management matching principle at today’s speed of business but consider this: There are going to be times when you will be better off if you slow down now to speed up later.

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