energizing breakthrough performance

Customer-Focused Teams Coming Apart at the Seams: Towards the Coherent Matrix Organization

Lost Opportunities

Absent development of an “E-Markable Way,” there are fewer opportunities to gain competitive advantage through attracting, training and retaining superior staff talent, let alone to define new processes and technologies as the firm competes for the future. Innovation becomes limited to and by the needs and preferences of the dominant customer; E-Markable’s dominant customer may retain its position as a market leader, or it may lose it for reasons which have little or nothing to do with the quality of E-Markable’s services. E-Markable’s wagon becomes too tightly hitched to one star.

If the vertical functions in our matrix are relatively weak and the horizontal customer teams are relatively strong, the imbalance between the vertical and the horizontal has the potential to implode the matrix, and the benefits of customer-focused speed and agility, hastened organizational learning and staff performance, and higher productivity will be lost.

Does the Horizontal Always Trump the Vertical?

A COO of a major global corporation was once asked this question in my presence: “In the event of a conflict between the Horizontal Customer Team and one of the Vertical Disciplines, who should prevail?” His response was that the Horizontal Customer Team always trumps the Vertical because the Horizontal is where the money comes in, not where the money goes out. By the same token, this top executive’s key strategic concern was that there was risk of his enterprise balkanizing into several separate companies which would ultimately go their separate ways.

I convinced him that the correct answer to the question of whether the Vertical or the Horizontal should prevail in a conflict is that it all depends on the nature of the issue and its strategic importance. There should be no “permanent-always” answers concerning matrix decision-making lest the inherent agility of the matrix be lost forever.

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