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Matrix Management and Painless Dentistry

Author: ; Published: Jun 27, 2013; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: None; No Comments»

Can you successfully implement and manage a matrix organization by humming a few bars of Kumbaya and exhorting personnel to collaborate with one another as they have never done before?  Some folks seem to think so. Indeed, some speak of a matrix organization which doesn’t involve a dual reporting structure and which doesn’t have need for use of tools such as RACI diagrams, or the alternative LACIE diagram which is recommended by Strategic Futures.

 

This then raises the question: When is a matrix organization not a matrix organization? While implementation of a matrix organization need not be painful, it does require learning some new ropes which are not highly intuitive.  It also requires special insights and, yes, here’s that terrible word, discipline to get the most of what this organizational form has to offer as a source of strategic advantage.  Matrix management consists of roles, rules and tools: Everyone needs to be on board if you are to avoid incessant frustration. If people don’t change their behavior from what has gone before, please be assured that you will keep getting what you were getting before in much the same way albeit with a masquerade ball of changed nomenclature.

 

If you skip one or several rungs on the ladder to matrix management success, you may well stumble and fall.  You probably didn’t take the advanced course prior to successful completion of the prerequisites. If you think it’s enough to inculcate key personnel with nosebleed-altitude matrix management concepts alone, with everything else taking care of itself, then welcome to painless dentistry.  Dentistry may be painless for minor procedures, but an extraction or a new crown likely involves some discomfort. The shift from a traditional hierarchical organization to a networked matrix organization is not a minor procedure, but it need not be long and painful either.

 

Years ago, Judith Bardwick taught us that there is “danger in the comfort zone.”  Matrix management is a state of mind, but if you think that the “state of mind” is enough, you won’t achieve the changes in behavior that are required to make it work. That’s too comfortable and convenient. Indeed, psychologists teach us that changes in behavior lead to changes in attitude, rather than vice versa.  While significant changes in behavior based solely on an altered “state of mind” may materialize suddenly in the twilight zone or a cartoon world, they don’t materialize desirable when people are cocooned in the comfort zone. Real change involves a degree of discomfort.

 

Established principles of change management, applied in conjunction with equipping your employees to use the matrix structure to achieve individual and collective success – competently and confidently – make the difference.  A behavioral approach, based on tested roles, rules and tools, is critical to making the shift to matrix management while avoiding needless chaos– unless you like the idea of a bevy of consultants pulling their trailer into your parking lot for a long stay! 

 

Buckminster Fuller summed it up best: “If you want to change how a person thinks, give up. You cannot change how another person thinks. Give them a tool, the use of which will gradually lead them to think differently.”  Once again, Bucky nailed it: Changes in behavior precede changes in attitude. Roles, rules, and tools are the scaffolding for behavioral change needed to transform your organization.

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Matrix Management, Culture, and Resistance to Change

Author: ; Published: Feb 5, 2013; Category: Collaboration, Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: ; No Comments»

The successful implementation of matrix management is accompanied by significant changes in organizational culture.  My working definition of organizational culture is what employees think and do when the boss isn’t looking.  Cultural changes cannot be dictated from on high although executive visions of desired cultural changes are important, in fact, essential to communicate throughout the organization as “air cover” for transformation. That said, real cultural change is a “ground war,” which happens when and only when significant changes in employee behavior accumulate. When changes in employee behavior take hold and reach a tipping point, cultural change momentum is achieved and thereafter tends to accelerate as late adopters and laggards end their resistance and get on board with the rest of the organization, at last convinced that the cultural change is an enduring one and not a “flavor of the month.”

 

There are numerous cultural shifts that are associated with successful implementation of matrix management and I won’t itemize all of them here.  That said, in many organizations the shifts include:

 

n      Adoption of a “one-firm concept” mindset which emphasizes the success of the organization as a whole rather than discrete components of the enterprise

 

n      Full embrace of horizontal accountability as well as vertical accountability, i.e., where  “dotted line” relationships take on equal importance with “solid line” relationships

 

n      Members of management learning to stay in their respective vertical or horizontal “swim lanes,” and coming to accept the basic matrix role dichotomy, whereby they no longer control both the horizontal and the vertical aspects of organizational life

 

n      Emphasis on solving multidisciplinary challenges at the lowest possible level in the hierarchy, prompting greater risk-taking within defined constraints rather than elevating all issues to the top a la “Mother May I?”

 

n      Horizontal management of alignment, multifunction synergy, and conscious prevention of fizzles, fumbles, and foibles when the baton is passed across the organization

 

n      Changes in manager and employee behavior whereby “dueling priorities” or “crunches” are identified and remedied promptly

 

And the list goes on.

 

In training and consulting to more than 70 clients who have adopted or are refining a matrix organization, I have sometimes encountered pockets of resistance to change, particularly in “strong culture” enterprises. Over the years, I have come to regard such resistance as a good thing.  To me, it means that the employee who is expressing reservations or complaints is mentally “trying on” new behaviors and like a good pair of new shoes, is finding that they may pinch a bit when first worn. The good news is that the employee is taking the change seriously and is trying to wrap their minds around it. To the extent that the employee finds these changes inconsistent with the behaviors that have brought them success thus far in their careers, there can be moments of apprehension and a higher degree of resistance. Expressions of resistance may be impolitic, but it is important to listen to the message more than critique its delivery. Akin to “growing pains,” some resistance is not only natural; it’s a positive sign that real change is taking hold. Don’t dismay: Managing the change process to convert the resistance to positive momentum for transformation makes all of the difference. 

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Author: ; Published: Nov 29, 2012; Category: Collaboration, Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management, Uncategorized; Tags: None; No Comments»

Yes, with a nod to the late Rodney King. While Mr. King was referring to life on the streets, we will reframe his question relative to life in today’s complex organizations: How can we optimize collaboration among our company’s employees?

To be sure, extreme examples exist whereby one or more toxic relationships dim the prospects for productive collaboration towards zero.  The good news is that there are relatively few such examples hunkered down at the tail of the bell curve. More commonly, it’s just that people get in one another’s way, most often unintentionally, such that the whole ends up being less than the sum of its parts. Then, Pandora’s Box may open with the most neurotic relationships exerting disproportionate negative influence on everyone’s performance and daily sense of progress, akin to bad money driving out good money.  In the most egregious cases, the best people and practices become subservient to the least common denominator. That’s wrong, upside down, and out of balance. It’s also dangerous.

Look at it this way: When it comes to productive collaboration, there’s a continuum with alienation at one end and productive synergy at the other. The never-ending challenge is to move the organization from wherever it is on the continuum towards the productive synergy end, lest it spiral backwards. Things are either getting better or they are getting worse. Getting to productive synergy is the goal of Strategic Futures’ Optimize Collaboration!

“Getting along” at the speed of business in a high-performance enterprise is today’s high bar and “getting along” certainly does not mean just “getting by.” It enables the talent to collaborate with one another productively, and we hope, creatively. Getting along  today also means that when there are occasional fights – and there will be – they should be the right fights, fought well and intelligently. Constructive tension is a good thing.  Destructive tension is not.

What does productive collaboration require? Three key building blocks you need for fostering crackling synergy among employees are:

  • Expanded Trust
  • Improved Human Relations Hygiene
  • Clarified Mutual Support Agreements

These building blocks take on different proportions in a world which often consists of fewer face-to-face employee encounters, replaced by more computer-mediated interactions. These challenges are factored into our design. Optimize Collaboration!  is a hands-on working session delivered at your site. We customize the session to your organization’s needs and aspirations. If you think it might be time for a tune-up, please email info@strategicfutures.com or telephone 703.836.8383 for additional information. You may also e-mail us for a free copy of our Dimensions of Trust Self-Assessment Questionnaire.

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