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.

Matrix Management and Career Advancement/ Job Search

Author: ; Published: Apr 26, 2010; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , ; No Comments»

Matrix management-related developments are monitored closely here at Strategic Futures. One good source of information is Google Alerts, a resource one can access and subscribe to on www.google.com. Google Alert–Matrix Management is increasingly displaying job vacancies where the applicant is expected to have experience managing or working in a matrix environment.

Indeed, we can’t help but observe that more and more companies are moving to matrix management. There are significant employment and promotional opportunities available to those who can represent fairly that they are ready, willing, and able to work in a matrix structure.

A jobseeker or someone looking for career advancement may have the requisite technical skills for a job vacancy but may lament that s/he doesn’t possess extensive matrix management experience–or perhaps none at all. What to do?

First, let’s consider that you may well have relevant experience and not know that you do. Have you worked on a cross-functional team where you were collaborating with people drawn from disciplines other than your own? This may have been in pursuit of a specific goal, performance of a specific project, or the satisfaction of a particular customer’s requirements. If so, you are part of the way there.  Have you worked successfully on multiple projects at once?  If so, this is something to emphasize!

Cross-functional collaboration is at the heart of any well-designed and managed matrix organization. Seeking out the productivity- and profit-building synergies that are expected from such collaboration is the strategic companion to the matrix structure. If you are able to talk about your contributions to results achieved from such cross-functional effort, you already have your foot in the door.

On the other hand and as you might expect, there’s more to it than that. When multiple cross-functional teams pursue shared objectives using shared resources, things get a bit more complicated and your ability to work through and with these complications is what the employer is seeking. There are specific roles that are played by participants in the matrix structure. There are also rules and tools that you need to know.

One way to get over this employment screening hurdle is to indicate that you have worked on cross-functional teams (if you have) and/or on multiple projects at once, and also to indicate that you have familiarized yourself with the structure and dynamics of a matrix organization by reading pertinent literature. You might want to order one or two of our booklets, namely Life in the Matrix and also Matrix Stations. Better yet, you may want to order my book, Matrix Management Success: Method Not Magic. Chances are if you read the booklets and/or the book as well as reviewing the articles in our Library such as Matrix Management: Method, Not Magic and our matrix management blogs, you’ll know as much as the person who is reviewing your resume and interviewing you. Indeed, if you read the book, odds are you’ll be more knowledgeable about matrix management than the person who is scrutinizing your application for employment.

Good luck in your quest!

Designing the Successful Matrix Organization: 18 Critical Decisions

Author: ; Published: Apr 7, 2010; Category: Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , ; No Comments»

Designing a matrix management structure is not a “one size fits all” proposition.  The key issues that emerge when moving to a matrix structure surround a thirst for clarity at every level of the organization. Employees want to know: “What am I supposed to do differently?”; “How does an arrangement where I report to more than one boss actually work?” Leadership wants to know what it can do to usher the new structure into place – with minimal resistance and maximum speed and success. There are roles, rules and tools that make a matrix structure work successfully. These need to be designed systematically and with all due diligence if matrix management success is to be achieved.

Strategic Futures helps clients in the formative stages of matrix management by framing the 18 key decisions that need to be made, emphatically steering the client away from known perils – towards successful, proven practices.

Here’s the thing: These 18 formative decisions are largely invisible to organizations setting out on the matrix management journey. The good news is that key decisions are known to Strategic Futures because of our work with dozens and dozens of clients in a full spectrum of industries over many years. Explicit and conscious decision-making concerning these key issues saves our clients time, money, and frustration in very significant ways. No amount of recasting matrix management as “the new matrix” or “the blended matrix” or other such new-and-improved spins will exempt you from making these critical decisions. 

There’s more good news: Decision outputs can then be imported into future briefings and training for staff that builds employee understanding and confidence in accomplishing great things using an agile matrix structure that makes the highest-and-best use of all available talent.  You don’t want to be in a position of telling management and staff that “we’ll get back to you on that,” or “we hadn’t thought about that, we’ll have to think about this.”

No one has all the answers all of the time, but a failure to think ahead should be an episodic event, rather than a chronic condition.

That’s where we come in.