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Matrix Management and Organizational Dexterity: Method, Not Magic

Author: ; Published: Feb 9, 2011; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , ; No Comments»

Matrix management provides a pathway to organizational dexterity. Why does that matter? In 2010, IBM conducted its Global CEO Study. More than 1500 CEOs in 60 countries and 33 industries expressed concerns about massive and rapid change, global economic shifts, and the disruptive impacts of technology. 80% of the CEOs expect that the environment will become even more turbulent than it already is. More than half of the CEOs believe that their organizations are not prepared to cope by way of strategy, systems, and/or structure. The biggest needs they identified were for organizational dexterity, creativity, and closeness to customers.

At the risk of understatement, traditional silos and hierarchies are not known for their contribution to organizational dexterity. Far from it, these hierarchies are too often calcified in place, leaving few if any degrees of freedom. What’s more, in the worst cases, the hierarchy has been known to stifle creativity as well as create a moat which separates the enterprise from its customers—be they internal and/or external customers.

One example comes to mind: The client practices business-to-business selling of over-the-counter medications to drug and grocery stores. It once sold these products on a silo’d basis—one representative selling one particular type of medication. Sales reps from the same company but representing different products kept bumping into one another at the stores to which they were selling. This was wasted time and energy, accompanied by customer frustration with the picket fence offerings of the company. Also, it did not provide the drug company with the dexterity needed to anticipate customer needs using a comprehensive approach to the customer. The transformation to selling by customer-focused matrix teams meant greater closeness to customers, greater dexterity, and greater cross-selling creativity—the biggest needs identified by the CEOs in the IBM study!

When we unleash the power of a battery of cross-functional teams, which are pursuing shared objectives using shared resources, we can enjoy new vistas in organizational dexterity, provided that our design is sound, our roles are clear, are processes are defined, and we are nurturing a shared fate culture. In addition to all of this, our people must be trained in how to apply matrix management roles, rules and tools, and how to get the most and best of what it has to offer.

You can use matrix management to increase your organizational dexterity if you design and implement your matrix consciously and deliberately. As we say at Strategic Futures, during the course of our matrix management consulting, use method, not magic.

Job Design in Matrix Management

Author: ; Published: Jun 11, 2010; Category: Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , ; No Comments»

In recent months, we have had multiple opportunities to assist clients with the design of key jobs in their matrix organizations. These clients have included an energy engineering consulting enterprise, a medical device R&D operation, as well as a confidential client. These assignments have allowed us to work collegially with clients in spelling out a number of roles, their responsibilities and key relationships.

As I have written in articles, blogs, and the book, the interface player in the matrix is a make-or-break player. All too often, this mid-level position is given short shrift and that is surely an avoidable mistake.  Your matrix organization will not work if the unique mix of vertical and horizontal responsibilities is not competently and confidently exercised by these key individuals located at the interfaces of the matrix structure. Making plain what they are to do, how they are to do it, and with whom they need to consult is central to success. Patterns and limits of decision-making are also critical to this examination. We have been working with our clients to ensure that there is adequate specificity for these and other roles. C-level executives participate in these sessions and have told us that they are convinced that the investment of time in achieving this clarity is well worth the time and effort.

As a small business, we are able to move in an agile way to ensure that these key roles and relationships are defined in hours and days rather than weeks and months. We believe that the longer things get dragged out and immersed in unusable and unhelpful levels of detail, the murkier things can become. At the risk of sounding polemical, matrix organization job design should not involve a lot of lengthy, go-nowhere “consulting foreplay.” We believe that the better way is to draw together client principals for purposes of designing the job, keyboarding the elements of the role directly during a work session, with the results projected on screen at the front of the room. In this way, participants in the process have an opportunity to seek clarification, express objections, or otherwise jump into the discussion to ensure that competence and confidence are not just enabled, but ensured. That’s what we have been doing as of late.  Clients are gratified by the results and, from a consulting viewpoint, it puts us in a stronger position to ensure that subsequent training and coaching efforts will be sure-footed.

These efforts also help spell out the types and uses of both formal and informal, persuasive authority in the organization in a way that helps build a smooth, confident operation on a day-to-day practical level, rather than a too-cute-by-half theoretical level.  There’s a balance here to ensure that there is sufficient clarity to hit the road running but enough degrees of freedom to allow the job incumbent to grow the role organically over time. 

Bottom line? Don’t go “live” with your matrix organization unless you have committed to clarifying roles and relationships in adequate detail.