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Matrix Management and the Matrix Guardian

Author: ; Published: Aug 24, 2010; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , ; No Comments»

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Does your matrix structure need a “Matrix Guardian?” A “Matrix Guardian,” also known as a “Matrix Manager,” is an individual whose job it is to see to it that the matrix structure is functioning effectively and efficiently, and that the principles of matrix management are being applied correctly and fairly. The Matrix Guardian ensures that “good hygiene” is being practiced throughout the matrix structure.

Some of the key functions of the Matrix Guardian are to:

  • Serve as a technical resource to staff, managers, and executives on matrix management practices and issues
  • Conduct periodic inspections to ensure that key matrix success factors such as role clarity, process clarity, are in a state of continuous improvement
  • Function as an ombudsman or arbiter in working through a variety of emerging issues such as chronic staff overwork/underwork or boundary disputes, for example
  • Provide a long-range strategic perspective on the structure and assist in its evolution over time

Consider designating a Matrix Guardian under these circumstances:

  • During matrix management’s early implementation or revitalization
  • When there are challenges of intense internal politics or significant resource skirmishes
  • When there are persistent concerns related to trust and fairness
  • When you want to accelerate and fortify institutionalization of matrix management in a larger organization

How do you staff the Matrix Guardian position successfully? Ideally, the position should be staffed by someone who is thoroughly trained and experienced in matrix management and who is regarded as fair and approachable. The Matrix Guardian should be both mature and discreet—a person with whom people at all levels can converse candidly without fear of hearing their words echoing in the hallway or being communicated to “the boss” when confidential or low-profile problem-solving was the primary objective of the conversation.

One of my first matrix management consulting assignments was that of rehabilitating and re-strengthening a matrix manager in whom R&D personnel had lost trust. Up until the turning point when trust soured, the individual had been very effective in playing the role of Matrix Guardian. The rehabilitation project was a success. This assignment reinforced in my mind the valuable role that a Matrix Guardian can play—when the role is played effectively and when trust is building rather than eroding.

For help with your matrix, please email me at info@strategicfutures.com or call 703/836-8383.