We’re consistently asked how to develop leaders so they can work better in a matrix and what are the core competencies that they will need.
I smile when asked this, because I know my answer is going to surprise them.
Smashing functional silos has become a rallying cry in management circles, especially during the past decade. The pain points behind this leadership imperative go back nearly 30 years, when Phil Ensor coined the phrase “functional silo syndrome” to describe common challenges in manufacturing organizations. Since then, the crippling effects of workplace silos have worsened, magnified by the disruptive effects of technology, yet many companies are no closer to overcoming these organizational difficulties.
What do these items have in common: dial-up modem, slide projector, cassette player, rotary dial phone, floppy disk, boom box?
Well, if you guessed they all represent technologies that were popular in the 1970's and are no longer in widespread use today, you’d be right.
There's a barbecue joint near my house. The barbecue is fantastic and the business is hugely successful. People line up for the barbecue an hour before the place opens. The restaurant's menu is focused on one key offering - the barbecue -and a couple of accompanying menu items - potato salad and cole slaw.
There's not much else on offer - no other sides, meat, or alcoholic beverages. The business is kept as simple and focused as possible, and it works well. This, however, is an exception, rather than the rule. Most businesses have no choice but to be complex.
"Successful change, even small in scale, creates momentum and helps bring people on board. Leaders gravitate toward limited-risk environments, and a small initiative with a maximized chance of success is a great way to start."
Some people think that matrix management is a “hot” new concept. Some think it’s an outdated management technology. Others think of it in terms of the challenges working in a matrix environment presents.
We're accustomed to looking at organizations as vertical structures with "org" charts and reporting relationships, so it's no wonder that when we look for solutions to matrix challenges, we look for them in this vertical dimension.
This month we are looking at the concept of matrix maturity – the ongoing growth and optimization of an organizational matrix as its members develop a deeper understanding of their roles within it. As a case in point, we offer the Grocery Manufacturers Association – a trade association headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Are you leading a medium to large-sized organization with multiple business strategies? If so, you are operating in a matrix, and effectively pursuing more than one business strategy simultaneously requires matrix maturity. Matrix-mature organizations use an up-to-date organizational operating system.
There is an essential truism in our world: in order to play a game well, you need to know the rules.