July 2004 - Working in a Matrix
- Working in a Matrix
- Resources (links, books, articles,
in a Matrix
by Paula K. Martin, CEO, Martin Training Associates
Everyone works in a matrix, even if youíre not sure exactly what that
means. A matrix is any organization that operates in two dimensions: the
dimension of getting the work done (which is the horizontal dimension) and the
dimension of reporting relationships and allocating resources (the vertical
dimension). Work in the horizontal gets done through business processes,
like accounts payable or the supply chain, which are permanent parts of the
organization - or through projects, which are temporary.
Working in two dimensions creates difficulties for everyone, from the senior
leaders to individual team members trying to get the work done. There are
things that can be done at the top to make life easier for everyone in the chain
of command. However, most of us have little or no control over senior
In fact, the only person we do have control over is ourselves. If we
follow a few simple rules, we can operate more effectively in both dimensions
within an organization.
These rules include:
1. Control of Self, Not Others
Many of us are deluded by the idea that we can control other people.
We think we can control our subordinates, our team members, or even our
spouses. The sad fact is that the only person we can control is
ourselves, and most of us do a pretty poor job of that.
Sure, in extreme circumstances, such as a prison environment, we can
control someone elseís actions, but we canít control their minds and
hearts. Those they have to give of their own free will.
The best way to win peopleís hearts and mind is through collaboration Ė
allowing them to participate in making decisions and solving problems that
2. Adult Relationships
Working effectively in a matrix requires collaboration between individuals
and collaborative requires adult-to-adult relationships. Adults
negotiate, come to consensus, resolve conflicts, respect each otherís
opinions, recognize and respect differences, etc.
Too often relationships are parent-to-child. Parents dictate, judge,
demand, criticize. Children whine, complain, revolt and feel victimized
By staying in the adult-to-adult mode, we can more effectively negotiate
for what we want and need to be successful.
3. Personal Power
Many of us work in organizations where being accountable for something
means being blamed for what goes wrong. As a result, most of us give up
our power and just comply with what is asked of us.
We have the option to empower ourselves Ė to climb out of the role of the
victim and become a take more control of our destiny by negotiating our
accountability upfront and refusing to buy into the blame game.
Once we accept accountability, itís important to operate from a proactive
All too often we operate out of a reactive mode Ė responding to problems
or other peopleís agendas.
By taking the reins and becoming proactive, we are able to create more of
the reality we choose for ourselves.
To be proactive requires planning Ė deciding what we want to create and
what it will take to get there. Often this needs to be done with a team,
as the reality weíre trying to create involves other people.
5. Personal Alignment
Personal alignment means that we have a mission for ourselves and a
strategic plan for our lives and we seek to mesh our plan with the strategies
of the organization that we serve.
When we canít align our personal goals with the goals of the
organization, then we find places to serve that are in alignment with our own
plan in life.
6. Leader and Team Player
We live in a society that worships individuals. We are obsessed with
heroes and we want our leaders to be heroes.
The fact is that most efforts in an organization do not result from the
efforts of heroes. They result from the efforts of teams.
Therefore we need fewer heroes and better team players and team
leaders. To work effectively in a matrix is to be able to move
seamlessly from leading teams to working productively as a team member.
7. Active Learner
We all make mistakes. Itís not important to try and never make a
It is important that we donít make the same mistake over and over
again. We avoid repeating our mistakes when we become an active
To continually learn we must be looking for lessons everywhere. What
happened? What worked? What can we do differently next time?
It is possible to work effectively in todayís very complex organizations
and it takes commitment from each of us to make them work effectively.
Copyright © 2004, Paula K. Martin, All Rights Reserved
About the Author: Paula Martin is
the CEO of Martin Training Associates, a management training and consulting
firm, which specializes in matrix management, project management and management
accountability. Visit their website at: www.martintraining.com.
About our resource
links: We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in
these links. We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and
respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.
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