Mastering the matrix
Increasingly we are coming across teams and organisations that need to, or are choosing to, work in a more matrix structure. In some cases they are pursuing the path of systems thinking and in others they are recasting their organisation structures to create a more cross functional ‘mix and match’ approach. These are very powerful models for organisational working in that they both require, and support, a far more flexible way of working that has many benefits.
These benefits can include the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and flex priorities accordingly, the scope to upsize or downsize resources against specific priorities, collaboration across multifunctional teams bringing about fresh thinking and new perspectives, an expansion in leadership capability and resource as more people take on leadership roles within the organisation and many more. However these benefits to do not come automatically.
Working in a matrix structure or adopting a systems leadership approach requires a mind-set and attitude that in itself is flexible, comfortable with building relationships quickly, and, which has a mature and balanced relationship with ‘control’.
Additionally it demands skill sets that include high levels of emotional intelligence, access to a broad range of leadership capabilities including effective influencing and communication skills and a level of self-confidence to adapt and learn quickly in situations that may not have been encountered previously.
Whilst drawing a matrix based organisation structure is relatively straightforward, building teams that can truly operate in a cross functional, open system requires an investment in time. Time to build trust and openness coupled with the systems, processes and governance that underpin the ability to move quickly, adjust flexibly and demonstrate leadership, agility and high levels of business performance.
It is an expression of mastery that can feel very heady when all are pulling in the same direction.