energizing breakthrough performance

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.