You must embrace the matrix structure or you will be left behind, and I say that as a real word of caution to anyone working in the matrix structure, and who find it challenging.
I do quite a bit of work in the pharmaceutical industry and many of the organizations there have a matrix structure because, quite simply, it works for them. Also because their organizations are quite complex both in terms of structure and breath of product reach, as well as tending to be global. For them, the matrix system is a good fit.
However, many people struggle with it and while I do understand that to a certain extent, for anyone who is railing against it, you need to embrace it because it is just part of life!
I accept it can be, at times, somewhat challenging, but I think there are a number of things to focus on to really help you get the most out of it.
I think the first thing that you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got is a truly shared vision. If everyone can articulate it in the same way, then you are well on your way. They can speak about it using the same language. If everyone describes the vision in a consistent manner, then you are doing that part right. Do not underestimate the challenge in achieving this!
Clear Roles and Ways of Working
I think falling out from a clear and shared vision is having absolutely clear roles within that matrix structure. I know that sounds obvious but I’ve often observed a lot of blurriness around this subject. Clarity around responsibility and accountability is fundamental to making a matrix structure work.
What is then frequently overlooked is agreement on how you are going to work together. What are the rules of engagement? What is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable? If you don’t make this clear and everyone signs up to it, you end up with real conversations happening at the proverbial “water cooler”! Not something that helps any structure to work!
Obviously, you need to create processes to work effectively in a matrix structure, and these may be somewhat different to the processes that you would have if you’re working in a much more of silo-type structure where it can be more clearly defined. So, I think you really need to have a fresh look at your process to ensure they are fit for purpose. Then ensure that there is a clear line of sight from vision, to roles, to way of working, to efficient processes.
And I think the last piece is about communication – good and frequent communication, and you can never over-communicate, believe me!
The communication is about all of the above – the vision, roles, rules of engagement, and your processes. In older days we relied upon the old style of “command and control” to make things happen. But that is not the world we live in today.
It is all about influence, and that is the mindset that you must adapt in this matrix structure.
So, get clarity on the vision, roles, rules of engagement and your processes. Then communicate like mad to make sure they stick!
And if you do that, you’ve got a really good chance of making that matrix structure work really, really effectively and in a way that it is meant to work – and it really can when done properly!
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