Collaboration In A Matrix Environment

Collaboration In A Matrix Environment

Most organizations today have some kind of matrix structure in place, rather than the traditional hard silos of the past. The challenge in a matrix environment is getting people to be accountable and work effectively outside of their function or division.

The problem fundamentally is one of ownership. Not knowing who owns what, whom one really reports to and what authority one really has often becomes an excuse for not taking responsibility for producing results.

People avoid accountability for the end goal of improving bottom-line profits by claiming conflicting priorities or lack of cooperation as the cause. “They” (meaning the other departments) “won’t come to our meetings to help us,” is the chronic complaint often accompanying a throwing up of collective hands.

But one myth that must be unwound in the matrix environment is that you can only affect things over which you have authority.

We hear this all the time from managers who tell us they can’t generate true alignment, effective communication and a strong sense of team with stakeholders who don’t report to them or in a group over which they have no authority.

But to be successful in a matrix environment, managers first have to abandon that paradigm and engage in a more empowering perspective — that everything is a function of influence, partnership and alignment of shared goals.

In reality, people have the capacity and the desire to be focused on, loyal to and aligned with visions, commitments and objectives they believe in, having nothing to do with structure. In the end, staff loyalty and passion can be driven by their relationship to a goal.

What are you doing to create teamwork in your matrix environment? I would love to hear your comments.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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