“We’re asking clients to change the way they think about how they are organized, what accountability looks like, how they set priorities and measure productivity, and, scariest of all, how their power structures look. That’s asking them to take a deep dive in a world where the trend is to just dip your toe in and call it “change management.”
Matrix Management 2.0™ is one of many organizational development technologies out there. So, how does one know that the solutions it offers are the ones your organization needs? It’s natural to be skeptical and to wonder about the benefits of any given approach or model. We sat down with Liz Callahan, a nonprofit management consultant, to explore the challenges of bringing complex organizational technologies to clients.
Q. What has been your experience introducing Matrix Management 2.0 to clients in the nonprofit and public sector?
A. First, you need to understand that when you talk about nonprofits, you’re talking about everything from the local, all-volunteer-led agency that provides blankets to seriously ill children to Harvard University, a multi-billion public benefit corporation. The MM 2.0™ model adds value to organizations that are complex and of a certain size. Having said that, there are principles within the model that can be applied to mid-size nonprofits ($2.5M – $20M) with some success. Unfortunately, it’s a tough sell.
Q. Why so?
A. Nonprofits have limited resources and they are hesitant to spend them on organizational development. Organizations seeking to improve their operations tend to focus on functional areas such as fundraising or financial management. The deeper reason behind this resistance to bringing in OD consultants is the viewpoint of the organizational leaders – they don’t attribute their problems to the way their organizations are structured or the fact that their systems don’t support the way they actually do their work.
Q. And the challenge here is to convince leaders that changing the way their organizations and processes are structured will help with common problems, such as a shortage of resources?
A. Yes. Leaders who understand the Matrix Management 2.0 model, often don’t see how something like this would help with, say, having to “do more with less” – i.e., having too few resources to produce the outcomes expected. The depth of the impact that Matrix Management 2.0 might have on the organization isn’t immediately obvious. You actually have to work with the new paradigm to understand its impact.
Q. So it’s the practical application of this model that’s hard for leaders to picture?
A. A lot of it has to do with overall trends in the business world. The latest trends seem to focus on the concept of “lean,” “fast,” and “simple. Change is brought to organizations in short bursts, with little commitment of resources at each stage. That’s not a criticism of the “lean” concept, because it does have a lot of value, but MM 2.0 is a paradigm-shifting model.
We’re asking clients to change the way they think about how they are organized, what accountability looks like, how they set priorities and measure productivity, and, scariest of all, how their power structures look. That’s asking them to take a deep dive in a world where the trend is to just dip your toe in and call it “change management.”
Q. What do you, as a management consultant, see as the benefits of Matrix Management 2.0?
A. I think it’s actually a very practical model – its underlying rule of looking at the way the organization does its work and building the structure around it is very practical and extremely useful for situations when resources are not plentiful.
Matrix management focuses on business processes, which represent an organization’s horizontal dimension, as opposed to formal reporting relationships (the vertical) that you’d see on an org chart. When the work the organization does becomes the focus of its leaders and team, there’s less waste, more efficiency, and the vertical functions are there to support — not complicate — day-to-day operations.
Q. I would imagine that rethinking a structure based on this horizontal map of organizational processes would take time and commitment?
A. Absolutely, but the truth is that many nonprofit sector organizations have complex long-term goals, such as ending poverty, that also take time and commitment. Being able to make progress toward a lofty goal requires creativity, efficiency, and shared accountability – another valuable concept in MM 2.0. When your team and your entire organization are accountable for specific outcomes, you are more likely than not to produce those outcomes.
Q. So how do we bring Matrix Management 2.0 to clients who may first need to change their point of view?
A. Paradigm shifts take time. And this process may take a few tries. Skepticism is healthy because it makes us ask questions that ought to be asked. Somewhere among these questions, there’s that “aha moment” we need in order to shift one’s point of view.
A Bit About Liz Callahan
Liz Callahan, MA, ACC, has been consulting with nonprofit organizations since 1993 and spent more than 20 years working in nonprofit organizations in academia and in government prior to that. Liz combines process consulting, coaching, training, process design and facilitation to help executive directors, senior managers, and boards improve the way they lead, manage, and govern.
Liz is an ICF-certified executive coach, a trained organization & relationship systems coach, and a certified Team Diagnostic™ coach. She holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from New School University in New York City.
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