Kevan HallThis guest post is by Kevan Hall CEO of Global Integration.
For decades, project managers have been dealing with matrix management. They must be able to manage teams of people from different regions, specialisations and functions.
The matrix was originally created to coordinate complex projects in the aerospace/defense industry.
The matrix has expanded far beyond the realm of project management. Many structures exist in large organizations that cross the traditional vertical silos of geography and function. Global customers need a single point to contact; supply chains cross traditional functions and include suppliers, partners, and customers. This form of horizontal working is becoming more common in complex organizations due to the integration of business functions and business processes.
Managers who are used to managing hierarchical relationships and getting things done find that they need to learn project management skills to connect people throughout the organization. In complex multidimensional organisations, managing multiple bosses, accountability and control without authority, influence without authority, and competing goals is a common occurrence.
The unintended consequences
Although we have created a matrix structure in order to achieve certain goals, there are important, often unintended consequences for how people work together.
While we often create a matrix to improve flexibility and responsiveness, competing goals can lead us to more confusion and conflict. People want to know their roles and goals, and to be aligned and supported by their colleagues. Both clarity and flexibility are essential. If we could be perfectly aligned we wouldn’t need a structure – we could just recast our perfect view of the world from the top.
We expect a matrix will increase cooperation across traditional silos. But, as always, be cautious what we wish for. A matrix can lead increase bureaucracy or poor quality cooperation. It is essential to be connected and effective.
Developing matrix management skills
The matrix is used to coordinate complex operations and manage shifting priorities in project management. To succeed, trust and empowerment are essential. However, complexity makes it difficult to control. Trust is more difficult to build and sustain when there are many teams that seldom meet and communicate mainly via technology. We need to balance trust and control.
Kevan’s book Making the Matrix work
It is not enough to have clear activity and scheduling tools. Managers who manage teams that cross traditional silos are increasingly confronted with leadership and collaboration issues. Project managers cannot focus on the activities and ignore the importance of community and personal growth. Project managers will need to improve their skills in this area over the years to be able to manage projects in a matrix setting.
About the author: Kevan is the CEO of Global Integration. He specializes in matrix management, virtual teams, global working, and is the author of Making the Matrix work: How Matrix Managers Engage People to Cut Through Complexity.