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The Sad Story of the (NOT) Shared Calendar

calendar with pins

Failure is frustrating. Failure to solve the same problem repeatedly – even more so!  This is the story of a nonprofit membership association we’ll call ABC, and how Matrix Management 2.0 could help them solve a cross-functional problem, improve member satisfaction, prevent frustration and extra work, and ensure that their processes are benefiting the organization.


Matrix Management 2.0™ to the rescue!

In this series, we talk about real workplace challenges and how Matrix Management 2.0™ can help address these challenges. The MM 2.0 theory may sound too good to be true, or too complex, or too abstract. We know. We also know that it does work in the messy, imperfect world we all live in.

The Problem

ABC has a team that coordinates internal email communications with its members. The team established a calendar to schedule what they needed to communicate and when to send the emails.

Another department is in charge of external marketing for ABC. This team also emails to members regularly, usually promoting outside events or services offered by other organizations. These emails, being external, were not scheduled on the “internal” calendar.

Confusion Uncoordinated Efforts and Unhappy Members

Unfortunately, the teams didn’t coordinate their efforts, and it wasn’t uncommon for multiple emails to be sent in the same week, or even on the same day.  Some members didn’t seem to mind. They signed up for events and purchased advertised products and services. Others, however, complained that they received too many emails, and responded by opting-out of the mailing list.

The Solution

Something needed to be done, and ABC’s leadership got together to find a solution. The first thing they discovered was that there wasn’t any reliable data on their member’s overall communication preferences. How many emails did they want to receive? What kinds of offers and services interested them? Did they want ABC to communicate with them via channels other than email?

The Combined Calendar

This prompted the leadership team to settle on a compromise. They would send a limited number of emails for a few months, collect data and regroup. The external team proposed using a combined calendar that included all of ABC’s internal and external emails. The calendar was created and everyone went back to their day-to-day work.

The Results

Fast Forward …

A few months later, the event planning team wanted to schedule promotional emails for an important upcoming event. The internal team did not take into account the decision to use a combined calendar, and the promo emails were scheduled using the old “internal” calendar instead.

Meanwhile, the external team was humming along, using the combined calendar, not knowing that everyone at ABC was not on board.

Back to Square One

You can probably guess what happened next. In spite of the complaints from members, and the decision to use a combined calendar, two emails were sent on the same day, five minutes apart. More members complained, more opted-out of the mailing list, and the ABC team was back to square one.

Why Is This a Matrix Problem?

ABC’s structure is focused on functions – an internal team, an external team, an events planning committee, etc. Each team worked well within its functional silo.

In fact, after the email scheduling problem was discussed, and the overall combined calendar solution was put in place, the external team improved the way it operated. It had a new tool that helped them plan their work ahead of time, manage expectations of external stakeholders, and also communicate better within the team.

But did this solve the problem of overlapping email distribution? Not at all.

Optimizing Vertical Functions Is Not the Answer

This isn’t uncommon when an organization tries to solve what is essentially a matrix problem with an outdated approach. Optimizing functions within an organization is not always the answer. The email scheduling problem that ABC was experiencing is cross-functional, and solving problems across functions requires a matrixed approach.

MM 2.0™ to the Rescue!

Matrix management 2.0™ to the Rescue

Coordination and Structure Are Key

ABC needs to coordinate its communication strategy, whether external or internal. MM 2.0™ can help:

  1. Coordination requires looking at horizontal business processes. Instead of looking at how separate departments operate, ABC needs to look at how they operate across departments. MM 2.0™ will help ABC map their horizontal business processes, making it clear where gaps exist.
  2. Effective coordination requires shared commitment and shared accountability. ABC’s communication teams were committed to their individual goals, but not to resolving an organizational problem. MM2.0 requires teams to first commit to, and then account for organization-wide goals.
  3. Organizations need a structure that supports their horizontal dimension in the same way that a vertical structure supports resource management. ABC needs a steering council to plan and execute its communication strategy across the organization, and oversee all communication processes as they occur.

Ready to Learn More?

Mistina Picciano

As Managing Editor of OD Innovator, Mistina Picciano combines her passions for communication and peak performance. She researches and writes about leading practices to help individuals and organizations realize their greatest potential.