energizing breakthrough performance

Matrix Management/Matrix Leadership

Author: ; Published: Sep 26, 2013; Category: Collaboration, Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management, Uncategorized; Tags: None; One Comment»

What’s the difference between leadership and management? The short answer is that leaders make sure that the right things are being done and managers focus on things being done right.  The most valued people tend to be those who can both lead and manage.

 

How are leadership and management responsibilities distributed in a balanced matrix organization? Functional (vertical) senior personnel are primarily responsible for managing the resources and methods for their discipline.  Matrix team (horizontal) senior personnel are primarily responsible for leading cross-functional efforts to achieve specified outcomes.  That’s the classic formulation of roles in a well-designed matrix organization.

 

That said, the word “primarily” becomes especially important to this discussion.  Vertical senior personnel are primarily responsible for managing resources and approaches but they also have leadership responsibilities, just as horizontal senior personnel have primary responsibilities for leading cross-functional efforts but also secondary responsibilities for managing resources which have been matrixed to their team.

 

Neither vertical nor horizontal key personnel can abdicate their secondary responsibilities. Indeed, a matrix organization works best when there is constructive tension between the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the enterprise. However, when differences in priorities emerge, which they will inevitably, the primary responsibilities associated with the respective vertical and horizontal roles must govern final decision-making authority.  If roles and rules blur or are suspended or even abandoned, the most common complaints hurled at poorly designed and managed matrix organizations will, unfortunately, play out.

 

The journey to optimum decision-making requires a blend of collaboration, competition, and sometimes conflict through which the vetting of alternatives, contingencies, and potential unintended consequences occurs. This journey is best accomplished when horizontal leaders are capable of thinking and acting as managers and vertical managers are capable of thinking and acting as leaders. Such reciprocal empathy is the basis of healthy communication in any enterprise.

 

The benefits of constructive tension can only be harvested when there is strong role clarity in your matrix organization.  Otherwise, destructive tension or potential chaos aka “the battle of the personalities” tends to break out. Leaders can and should have the freedom to make managerial contributions and managers can and should have the freedom to make leadership contributions when they are comfortable and competent in their respective horizontal and vertical roles. While it is sometimes difficult for some senior personnel to leave the comfort zone of the pre-matrix days when they possessed a combination of horizontal and vertical prerogatives, the transition from this historical comfort zone to the matrix organization’s power and agility delivers considerable and cumulative advantages. Stated differently, what may have seemed like a loss of status to some as the matrix was implemented later ends up delivering substantial increases in focused organizational power and impact…but you won’t get there without role clarity.

 

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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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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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