As organizations look to do more with fewer resources and leverage scarce knowledge better across their entire organization, we see lots of companies moving to matrix structures. A matrix structure can be defined as “a mixed organizational form in which normal hierarchy is overlaid by some form of lateral authority or influence resulting in two chains of command — one along functional lines and the other along project lines.”
There is no question that a matrix structure can offer a significant number of benefits including more efficient usage of resources and standardization of processes/working practices across different implementations. The challenge is that working in a matrix organization requires new skills and competencies to ensure that the planned benefits of the matrix are realized as intended.
To work effectively as a functional resource manager or as a project manager in a matrix structure, leaders need:
Organizational Thinking — This can be defined as having a deep understanding of the formal organization (e.g., goals, roles, processes, etc.) and the informal organization (e.g., politics, informal processes, power, etc.) and applying that knowledge to make all decisions.
Influence — Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something. Successful influencers execute influence strategies in a way that achieves positive outcomes and builds or strengthens relationships.
Self-Management — This can be defined as the ability to understand and control/manage your emotions and reactions. Self-management includes self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation.
Collaboration — This is the ability to cooperate with others to achieve shared or common goals. Collaboration involves being flexible, putting the collective needs of the group ahead of your own and cooperating with others to achieve results in a positive way.
Customer-Focus — Having a customer focus can be defined as outing the customer and their satisfaction at the center of all you do. It’s about making sure that you understand what is important to the customer and working to exceed those expectations in order to deepen and strengthen the relationship.
Empathy — Empathy can be defined as the intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another. It involves being able to see things from another person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with them.
Without these key competencies, we see matrix organizations struggle with a number of challenges including:
- Role confusion resulting in conflict or duplication of efforts.
- Mismatched priorities across different business units that negatively impacts business performance.
- Lack of feedback for individual contributors assigned to projects resulting in demotivation or poor personal development.
Many organizations take the time to put policies and procedures in place to support their matrix environment, but for true success they should also consider investing in training to build the right skills and competencies for their leaders.