Can You Manage in a Matrix?

Matrix organization: a cross-functional work team, which brings together individuals who report to different parts of the company in order to complete a particular project or task.

Managing in a matrix is laughable without established priorities, resource allocation and defined goals, fully supported by top management. How many matrix managers have that? Not many. The usual state of things is that the matrix manager is told to get it done without them. Top management is often deaf to their pleas regarding constantly shifting priorities, inadequate resources, team members operating in silos and having no clout.

Your success as a manager or project manager in a matrix depends on your ability to lead above you, beside you and below you. Start with well- defined goals for a project, assigned responsibilities and deadlines and get every participant’s agreement on them. If you don’t get agreement, stop and go no further. If you proceed without agreement, you are asking for frustration. At this point, look horizontally for buy-in or vertically for a champion. It’s about accountability for every member of the team, up, down and around. If you don’t create accountability, where are you going? You are going into a dysfunctional matrix that won’t be as much fun as the movie. Don’t live in a dream world that blinds you from the truth.

The matrix movie trailer (2:28)

You can manage in a matrix if you have a voice, guts, and an instinct for self – preservation (in case you can’t change the world).

Image: Ambro /