Matrix CodeIncreasingly, businesses are seeing the benefits of working in a matrix. But while this works for the organization, individuals can often find operating in a matrix, more than a little challenging. But there are some very simple things that you can do to make the matrix work for you.

First up, polish your communication skills. When you work in a matrix, you need to be clear about your work, your direction and your deliverables. Different teams have their own internal cultures – and if you are new to that team or working across a division, you likely will miss the non-verbal communication at play. To combat this, over communicate – ask questions if you are unclear. Clarify the expectations of colleagues and learn to articulate your thoughts precisely. If you need to, take a course; but don’t overlook the importance of this communication.

Secondly, remember there are only 24 hours in a day. When you work in a matrix, you are likely to have multiple deliverables from multiple teams. That means you must manage expectations of all involved. When asked to take on a new project, politely explain your level of utilization and then ask your project leader to help you prioritize your efforts. Make sure that this is clearly communicated to the people you report to, along with the expected impacts. Be sure to avoid over-committing and under delivering.

These two steps can make a dramatic difference to your life. But what about leaders? How can you lead well in the matrix? Gill Corkindale suggests the following steps for leaders:

  • Make sure the culture is robust, supportive and you have the right values and behaviors in place
  • Ensure that you are a skilled communicator: networking, influencing, coaching and facilitating skills are paramount
  • Draw up clear goals, objectives, and performance metrics for managers and staff and see to it that they are aligned vertically and horizontally
  • Empower teams to make decisions and to resolve conflicts at an appropriate level
  • Don’t tinker with the structure, but let the networks and matrix evolve over time
  • Use your expertise and personal network to influence those over whom you have no formal authority

To this list I would add:

  • Foster village thinking – create opportunities for your matrix team members to collaborate on both personal and professional levels
  • Achieve with grace – when you are a leader in a matrix organization, many disparate teams will contribute to your success. Make sure that your success is achieved (and acknowledged) with grace.

Nina Nets It Out: Matrix organizations can deliver astounding results, but attributing these results to a particular line of business can often be difficult or fraught with political danger. Leaders must ensure that they continue to emphasize communication, team work and responsibility across their matrixed teams and share the spoils of success as they arrive.