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.