Deeper into the Matrix

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Continuing on the theme of Matrix Management … and hoping this sequel doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Developing the Matrix

When your organisation is working hard, and trying to get the most change done there’s a common casualty: Personal development.  Some line managers try to align their resources to the projects which will provide them inherent opportunities to develop, but a lot seem to either lack the time, or are not permitted the chance to flex resources to reflect their hopes, aspirations, and interests.

This isn’t a responsibility you’ll find in any project brief, but remembering that the intent of all projects is either to build, or to protect, the value in the business, and recognising that the combination of motivating and directing your team is not always easy in a matrix environment, it is in your interests and the project/programme’s interest to get involved.  Approach the team members you’ve been assigned and who you can get around to (that’s not going to be everyone in a 200+ person, 2 year, 3 continent programme), but as a minimum those you directly manage within the change organisation, and find out what they want to learn next.  See if you can angle a way for that to be baked into their role on your project.  If they want cross-training into another skill, see if you can facilitate an introduction to someone within the project who can help them out.  This isn’t your main activity; this isn’t the purpose of the project or their engagement with it – but it’s a way of giving them something which in many cases they aren’t getting any other way, and it pays you back greatly.

Considering the time they spend working on your project, you’ll be seeing more of them than their line manager does.  Invest time in them and how you can help them, and you’ll find a team who do give a lot more of their best for you.

Matrix: Because I choose to

Which brings me to the question of motivation.  Matrix management doesn’t inherently provide good motivation to the members of your team to do their best, or even their second-best, for you.  With the combination of the remote performance punishment reward cycle (often annual; as discussed above usually by a line manager who knows very little about the project contribution); the lack of personal investment in the outcome of most changes for the individuals in this environment; and particularly if there’s the salami-slicing of splitting people across multiple things at once (more of that anon), the motivation of those who work under a matrix manager can be very thin.

If you need the best out of the people on your change, and that’s the case if it’s demanding for them or you as a change leader, you need to motivate them.  When they are working for your change all day, every day, if you’re not taking care of their motivation, ask yourself: who is?  Self starters are great, but not everyone is one, and if your team is going to produce something excellent, you need the best out of a lot of them, not just a few.

For a large proportion of their working day, those individual project contributors, or for larger projects or programmes, even those managers, are going to be your vehicle for carrying out your job, so spend some of your focus on them.  One of the best ways is to engineer opportunities for some personal development for them. Another, simple one, is feedback – again, already discussed.  Offering them some flexibility that they don’t otherwise have – like a later start in the morning, provided that doesn’t harm the needs of the team and the delivery – it’s often surprising what will make a difference.  Remembering always that for a lot of people: motivation isn’t money.

If they are getting all they need from their existing management, you’re not trying to take over, so leave well enough alone.  If they are the kind of self starter who doesn’t need any help like that, again, leave them in peace.  For the others, remember that while they are working on your change, they are your team.



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