Matrix Management Magazine
In 2016, U.S. corporations spent nearly $162 billion on employee training and education. However, this investment rarely improves organizational performance, a reality experienced by many companies and explored in the Harvard Business Review article “Why Leadership Training Fails—and What to Do About It.”
It’s no secret that companies sometimes do crazy things. Shows like The Office and the comic strip Dilbert have become cult classics because they reflect corporate dysfunction with horrifying and hilarious accuracy.
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.
In 2004, the Joint Special Operations Task Force—a collection of the best special operations units in the world—found itself consistently outmaneuvered by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Despite a 40-year track record of amazing achievements, superior training and funding, the Task Force could not compete against a scattered, local insurgency.
Similar battles are waged daily in Corporate America, as iconic brands and industry leaders struggle to retain market share against a rising tide of small, nimble competitors.
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.
Your operating culture can drive company growth—or it can hold things back. The most effective operating cultures presume collaboration, enabling employees at all levels and across all functions to drive the organization’s goals.
Your company wants to improve overall effectiveness. What company wouldn’t? Conventional wisdom—or, more precisely, methodology that hasn’t been updated in years—tells you that a restructure will deliver the results you need. Perhaps you’re already searching for the number of a consulting firm.
When an organization is looking to improve organizational effectiveness, they pick up the phone and call a big consulting firm, and upon their advice embark on a major restructure.
The company restructure is a popular tool among CEOs (and big consulting firms), especially in the first two years on the job with varying motivations such as strategic growth, cost cutting, creating better alignment with customers, and more, all with the goal to achieve better performance.
But that’s usually not the result.
Now that you’ve rolled out the new organizational structure, you can breathe a sigh of relief, right? After all, the new job descriptions have been written. People have been assigned to their new jobs. Done and done. Now for a much needed rest.
Well hold on a minute. You’re only half way to the goal line, particularly if you restructured into a matrix organization. There is a lot more work to do to operationalize that matrix, especially if this is the first time the people involved will be expected to work as a matrix.
Living through a restructure is a common enough occurrence these days but being common doesn’t reflect how unsettling and disrupting the change can be.
People are at sea.
They don’t know what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to operate in this brave, new world that’s been created.
One of the best things you can do to quiet the storms is get people in training that will teach them the skills they will need to operate differently.