Productivity In A Matrix - Chapter 1 - Communication

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • Why do I need to communicate more in a matrix?
  • What do I need to communicate?
  • How do I communicate about communication?

This cast gives our guidance communicating when you find yourself in a matrix.

We've said before that we don't like matrices. Despite the fact that on paper, they should make everyone more productive, people are human, not blocks. As the Bible says: "No man can have two masters". If you're stuck with it, though, how can you make yourself more productive?

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Experience with the matrix

Dear All,

up to now I have 5 years of experience as a line-manager (LM) in a matrix organization of an engineering department (project manager (PM) versus line manager) . I have 2 teams that are project-oriented (internal sub project), and 2 teams that are skill oriented (pool of specialists).

Here my key experiences:

1) I always have to fight for acceptance for my skill-oriented teams; external competitors were often preferred by the projects, because the line management sometimes switches staff-assignment. For the individual project this is a deep hit, and causes a serious loss of trust, so they look for a safe (external) contract.

2) The project oriented teams were advancing very well. Both teams were easily controllable. I taught them to become as self-dependent as possible. Strategies can be implemented easily.

3) The skill-oriented teams require most of my personal manpower. Nearly each team member has an individual project manager. Everything has to be done/communicated multiple times. On the other hand the project oriented teams need increasingly less attention.

4) My department has been growing in the last years, and there were rumors, that the both project oriented teams will be promoted to a department on the same level as mine. This is as this teams have an excellent reputation, they grew faster than the others and have therefore the "critical mass".  One of the team leaders will become the director, I will remain as director with the two talent oriented teams.

Now you may say that a matrix kills your career, but I would say NO! In the last years I have seen a way of evolution principle: It simply "boosts the strongest". It also gives an obvious indication, which organizational structure is the strongest and has, therefore,  to be preferred in the ecosystem of my company. By the way: The whole process took  5 years. The caesura now gives the opportunity for retrospection and it shows the future way for the talent oriented teams, after my department is split. Seek for 2-3 key activities, that are requested sustainably and that have good perspectives for the future, transform them into product teams, by creating sub organizations around this sub-products. It would also be a good idea to implement slightly different organizational strategies to see again which one is the strongest. 

I wish you a reflective Christmas time