AFTER THOUGHT : Managing through the matrix

I want to restructure my business so that people are able to work in different groups as the need arises. This means that they will report to two or three different managers at any one time. I think this is generally called ‘matrix management’. Will it work?

Yes this is definitely ‘matrix management’. few years ago I would have recommended you stay well clear of taking this step. However now I say go ahead if it makes sense to you, but do it with care.
Traditionally management has developed through need for structure and organisation. This was best achieved through hierarchies. This leads to cultures and behaviours that are formal and work on follower/leader principle.
While this worked well when people were more used to regimented approach to life, it’s lot less effective in world where people are better educated, want more autonomy and wider range of work experiences – and where organisations have to be more flexible.
The internal workings of an organisation consequently tend to be more project based and organic. People come together to achieve specific outcomes, then disband and reform to achieve something else. Good examples of this are in the film industry and also in the larger consulting firms.
Hence matrix management. However, it does require different skills – in leadership and in relationships so people can move in and out of different work groups without stress for themselves and without creating stress for others.
Being IT savvy is important and it also helps if each person in this type of organisation has what’s termed an anchor manager. This is someone who has commitment to supporting them with mentoring, coaching and personal development plans.
Matrix management is more organic structure than the traditional hierarchical one but it is evolving naturally and successfully as work styles change.

Help! I woke up on Monday morning and felt I just couldn’t get out of bed. I made myself get up and go to work but I feel like I am dragging huge weight around with me and I also feel as though I can’t breathe easily. I haven’t told anyone how I feel but did go to the doctor for physical check up. All the vital signs were normal but I still feel lousy.

Well done for going to the doctor. You have eliminated one of the main things that might be causing your problem – physical illness. However, there is another, and very common, reason why you may have such symptoms: stress.
Not all stress is bad – it acts as the spur to cut the grass on sunny afternoon when you’d rather be having beer or finishing report that you haven’t quite got to. The outcome is positive and satisfying but involves some small discomfort initially. Stress gets bad when you feel you can neither control the situation or reach successful outcome.
For example, you have an over demanding employer, or unnecessarily high expectations of yourself. The result is growing discomfort which could lead to tiredness, depression and ill health.
That’s when you need to listen to your inner voice. Imagine your subconscious as minder. Whether or not you are aware of it, this minder is monitoring what’s going on. If you’re pushing yourself too hard it may start to make nuisance of itself to attract your attention. This can take the form of sleepless nights or preoccupied mind during the day. If you don’t start to take notice of your minder, it may take more drastic action.
For example, I have known of person who woke one morning and had apparently lost the use of their legs. medical check showed nothing physically wrong but the person had been under extreme stress and basically their subconscious had kicked them in the guts and said ‘no more, you ain’t going to work today’.
So I suspect that the answer for you is to think what sort of stress you are under at the moment. Often bad stress cannot easily be removed in the short term but you can counteract it through increasing your levels of exercise and rest and by eating healthy food. The other thing that can help enormously is just to talk through your situation with someone you feel okay with.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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