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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.