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Focus on the Horizontal Dimension

paradigm shift blocks

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.


Work Takes Place in the Horizontal Dimension

Any large, modern-day organization is two-dimensional, and solutions to matrix challenges need to focus on where the organization’s work actually takes place — the horizontal dimension.

Teams Coordianting their Activities

Let’s say you want to bring your product or service to a new market. Asking the leader of your marketing unit to work exclusively with her team will not accomplish this goal. In order to successfully launch a new product in a new market, your product team, manufacturing and distribution team, sales team, IT team, legal team, regional team(s), etc. all need to coordinate their activities.

Reporting Relationships Don’t Get the Job Done

Every business process is, therefore, inherently cross-functional. Members of different functional units contribute to each process. They depend on one another as they work toward delivering the desired result. Reporting relationships as we see them on an org chart are not the relationships that will deliver the results of a horizontal, cross-functional business process.

Too often, the solutions we put in place to address operational issues focus on the org chart only – the vertical dimension. Leaders need to see their organizations as a set of horizontal processes that deliver products and services in order to discover and implement solutions that enable them to run in the most effective and efficient manner.

So What Can You Do?

As an organizational development professional, you are most likely asked to introduce your leaders to new systems and processes intended to improve organizational operations. Here are three things you can do to help them make the necessary shift from a one-dimensional vertical viewpoint to a two-dimensional horizontal viewpoint:

  1. Educate your business partners about modern organizational operating systems.
    Some organizational leaders may have an outdated understanding of matrix management. Introduce them to Matrix Management 2.0™, a relevant management operating system designed for today’s complex business environment. The MM 2.0™ Matrix Maturity Model can help them understand how mature their matrix operation actually is.
  2. Map the horizontal dimension of the organization with your colleagues.
    Collectively review the gaps and start improving the way the organization is run.
  3. Introduce horizontally-focused solutions.
    Instead of implementing dual-reporting in your matrix, optimize and develop the organization’s ability to work across functions and train leaders to lead without authority.

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.