Managing in a matrix organisation

To be successful, matrix organisations require managers to develop a specialist set of personal qualities and skills to navigate a complex, constantly evolving environment.

by Philippa Thomas 0 Developing yourself Management Development
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Over the past decade, many organisations have evolved towards working in flatter, matrix structures. The four key benefits associated with a matrix organisation structure are identified as being:

  • One Company - to break through the traditional vertical silos of function and geography and increase co-operation, communication and accessibility to resources across the business.
  • Integrated delivery - to work more “horizontally”, to better serve global customers, efficiently manage supply chains that extend outside the organisation, and operate fully integrated business functions and processes.
  • Flexible response - to be agile, responding quickly to shifts in the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental landscape, at both a local and global level.
  • Develop talent pool - to develop a talent pool of ‘T-people’: individuals with specialist skills and knowledge, but broader perspectives, who can deliver value across the business functions and manage in a more complex and interconnected environment.

The business logic for matrix organisations is compelling but managing in a matrix significantly increases complexity in the way people work together. This complexity often manifests in the workplace as:

  • Lack of accountability - everyone develops sloping shoulders.
  • Unclear goals, roles and responsibilities - no-one really knows who’s supposed to be doing what. Or why.
  • Delays in decision-making - too many people getting involved
  • Increase in bureaucracy - an increase in the number of meetings and committees
  • Increase in uncertainty and conflict – a blame culture develops
  • Increase in stress-related sickness absence – an unhappy work environment has an impact on health, well-being and productivity of staff

It’s clear that the disadvantages of matrix management are fundamentally about the way people work together.

Realising the benefits and value of a matrix structure can only be achieved by building the skills, confidence and mindset necessary to cut through this complexity. At a practical level, make sure you’re clear on how the work of your team interacts with that of other teams; clarify your team’s objectives and make sure each person understands their responsibilities to achieving them; pay attention to what your communicate, how often an and when; develop your personal radar…and LISTEN; be pro-active, and encourage your team to be too; finally, make sure you hone your conflict management skills, so difficult situations are swiftly resolved.

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