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Comparing Project Management Approaches

The overall approach to leading an organization is called an operating system (OS), and each OS has a different approach to project leadership.

Project Management in Vertical Management 1.0/Matrix Management 1.0

Vertical Management 1.0 (VM 1.0) has been around for a long time. In this OS, projects were managed within functions. Project managers used a directive leadership approach, which involved collecting inputs so he or she can create the project plan and share it with the team. The project manager alone was accountable for the project and made all the decisions.

When the need to manage projects cross-functionally arose in the 1980’s and 1990’s, VM 1.0 was revised and the result is a “new and improved” approach called Matrix Management 1.0 (MM 1.0). In this system, a dual-reporting structure requires team members to report to the project manager as well as to their respective functional boss.

Although the goal is to manage cross-functionally, the Matrix Management 1.0 approach is still vertically focused, and results in problems:

  • Matrix Management 1.0 adheres to the belief that the “customer is king.”
    The customer dictates what he or she wants—usually at an arm’s length from the project—and it’s up to the team to deliver. The customer’s requests are not always reasonable or even doable, which commonly results in failure to deliver the request. This demoralizes the team and is of no real service to the customer.
  • The project manager has very little ability to influence the team without escalating issues up the hierarchy.
    Matrix Management 2.0™ is still based on the need to have authority in order to lead, and authority resides in vertical functions. The project manager, therefore, has no real authority over team members, since the functional boss’ authority takes precedence over that of the project manager.
  • There is no prioritization of projects across functions.  
    Every member of the project team has a different set of priorities. This sub-optimizes cross-functional projects and makes it difficult to deliver them on time.

Project Leadership in Matrix Management 2.0™

The good news is that there is a new OS for leading a matrix—Matrix Management 2.0™ (MM 2.0). Based on the five SPARC™ Keys, adoption of Matrix Management 2.0™ principles can help your senior leaders improve their project system and help project leaders learn how to lead projects successfully without authority.


Project Support

Project Role

The Structure Key sets up horizontal structure to run the businessAligns all leaders to the horizontal dimension of the businessSenior Leaders
The Productivity Key ensures the whole organization is optimizedDefines a prioritized portfolio of projects and a project system for managing the portfolioSenior Leaders
The Accountability Key ensures proactive, commitment based accountabilityConnects everyone to common prioritized goals and adds planning and negotiating to the accountability processSenior Leaders and Project Leaders
The Relationship Management Key emphasizes building and managing relationships across the organizationShifts authority-based relationships to partnership-based relationshipsProject Leaders
The Collaborative Leadership Key identifies skills, tools and processes for leading cross-functional teamsBuilds commitment by ensuring plans are created in collaboration with the teamProject Leaders