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Collaboration: The Foundation of Great Matrix Teams

Collaboration is the act of working together to achieve a common goal. In a matrix, leading teams collaboratively helps them engage, move through the stages of team development (become high-performing), solve problems and get more work done.


Leading collaboratively requires:

  • An accountability system that enables collaboration versus competition
  • Collaborative tools and methods
  • A shift from a directive to a collaborative leadership approach

Here are three things you can do to begin leading collaboratively.

1. Adopt a New Definition of Accountability

In a matrix, where authority is not the primary vehicle for getting work done, leaders need a new definition of accountability to enable collaboration.

Matrix Management 2.0™ Accountability is the commitment to achieve organizational, team and individual outcomes while building organizational relationships.

Matrix Management Teamwork

To apply this new definition, try this:

  • Clearly define the team’s goals or outcomes so team members understand their team accountability—as a team.
  • Work with the team and use sticky notes to create a work breakdown structure, or deliverables schedule and record the person with individual accountability on each sticky note.
  • Educate resource managers (leaders with direct reports), internal suppliers and customers and key stakeholders in the meaning of organizational and team accountability, and define the type of accountability each has for the team’s outcome.

2. Use Collaborative Methods and Tools That Support Them

A collaborative method provides structured processes for creating team outcomes through team participation. Structured processes include steps the team works through that lead to the best possible results and create consensus along the way.

When choosing collaborative methods, make sure they:

  • Enable input from everyone impacted by the project when they are together (physically or virtually).
  • Include practices and techniques for ensuring everyone participates.
  • Use team-based visual tools so everyone is working from the same information.

3. Enable Team Leaders to Act as Facilitators

Being able to shift from a directive to a collaborative approach requires team leaders to act as facilitators versus sole decision makers.

Matrix Management Success

To develop successful facilitators, try this:

  • Enable leaders to build proficiency in leading teams through collaborative processes.
  • Teach leaders how to use tools and techniques (such as team contracts, ground rules, and the team accountability chart) to drive ownership for the team’s success by team members as well as the team leader.
  • Offer leaders tools such as multi-voting, affinity diagramming, brainstorming, etc to ensure teams are working towards consensus.

Collaboration doesn’t just happen. It requires management systems that enable it to happen, methods and techniques that are truly collaborative and leaders that act as facilitators, not directors. When these exist, we find teams are more engaged and committed to delivering the team’s outcome together.

Want More?

Check out our collaborative leadership training offerings

Cathy Cassidy

As the Managing Director of the International Matrix Management Institute, Cathy helps organizations and practitioners adopt the skills and methods they need to succeed in today’s complex, dynamic environment. She is a Matrix Management 2.0™ Master Consultant and the author of several books on matrix management, including her most recent publication, Managing Projects in a Matrix. She is a key contributor to the Matrix Management 2.0™ Body of Knowledge, co-developer of the Matrix Management 2.0™ organizational operating system, and a lead developer for the company.