Managing in a Matrix Organization - Part 2

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I co-manage directs?
  • How do I resolve priority conflicts for my directs?
  • How do I assess performance in a matrix?

In this cast, we finish our conversation on how to manage effectively in a Matrix Organization.

By now, you know why matrix organizations exist (and why we don't like them). In today's cast, we talk about what you DO to be effective in matrix organizations.

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Trinity kicked butts in the matrix :-)

Trinity kicked butts in the matrix :-) Can I give you some feedback? When you post your cast in time for my Monday hour morning commute I really look forward to Monday mornings. Thanks for all you hard work.

And now you know the REAL reason we

And now you know the REAL reason we named it the Trinity - because it kicks matrix butt.



Finally you enter my world! Thank you.

Finally you enter my world! Thank you. As I have always been in the software industry, I have never seen a _non_matrix_ organization. 20 years in the matrix has taught me most of the things in this cast, but it probably is invaluable to people unfamiliar with that environment.

Now, are you equally skeptical towards Project Management, and doesn't projects implicitly require a matrix (unless you do a full Project org)?

We are currently adding Scrum to our matrix, and it feels like an unmatrixification of our organization, but its still new so where we will end up I think nobody can tell.

June Netcast Update... By popular

June Netcast Update...

By popular demand (seriously), here is an update of the netcasts I'm listening to on a regular basis....

Mark: Part Two raises the really

Mark: Part Two raises the really interesting consequence of matrix organizations - that the communication burden on the manager increases almost geometrically. So true. The problem, in my experience, is that so many managers don't think of communication as their "work" - rather, it's treated more like a bothersome byproduct (in the old construct, it's the "paperwork" rather than work itself...).

But effective communication first requires clear thinking - and what's more important to success as managers than clear thinking???

Thanks for your ongoing attention to communication and the fundamental role it plays in the manager's job.

Hi Mike and Mark, never before did one

Hi Mike and Mark,
never before did one of your casts ring so many bells while listening. I'm leading my own team of freelancing music producers, so I'm not working in a matrix organization, but often work for projects where it is unclear who makes the final decisions even though in most cases I do know who I report to.

Here's a question and a comment:

- the EIGHT recommendations sound so true to me even in a non-matrix organization, e.g. what if the project manager I report to has two bosses? Isn't the project managers situation similar to working in a matrix?

- Here's a typical situation I often have to work with: TV station licenses TV show that looks for the next "Idol" from TV Production Company; TV Production Company makes artist deal with the artists/"Idols". Artists Record gets licensed to a Record Label that is owned by the TV Station and distributed/financially backed by a Record Distributor. The role of my team is to do songwriting and music production for the artists record. It seems to be very complicated for all involved parties to find direction and a strategy for the artists record. All involved parties want to have a say in the musical direction and the songs to choose for the artist and I'm sometimes getting different directions from different people. I tend to follow the guide of the TV Production Company that pays the music production, but really all your recommendations you've made in the matrix cast are key to survival in this situation.

Just wanted to share that with you and would be interested in your input and comments.

Keep up the great work!


Hi Mark, hi Mike, Is this cast and

Hi Mark, hi Mike,

Is this cast and the one two weeks ago, you are talking about two web-based tools : one for generating questions for interview and one for managing one's network.
Are they released yet? Where can I find them?

My best regards,


These casts cover what's known as the

These casts cover what's known as the "strong" matrix, but do not really address "weak" matrix structures, where people fall in functional management groups but work on several cross-functional projects where they get project managers outside of their "chain of command". Projects commonly don't take 100% of people's time so they don't warrant a re-org (in fact, I know plenty of organizations where people work on 2 or 3 projects at a time, with totally different structures for each project).

In general, the advice on over-communicating and pre-wiring in these casts rings a bell, but the seeming hours of criticism of "stupid" matrix management should be ignored. Projects are needed to change organizations (if they didn't change anything, they are simply "operations" not "projects"). Projects worthy of the name are cross-functional. Projects are a form of matrix management. It is over-smug to dismiss all matrix structures with the straw men Mike and Mark have presented here.

Shirgall- Thanks for sharing your


Thanks for sharing your point of view.

This cast is not about matrix management. it's about managing in a matrix ORGANIZATION. We might have slipped once or twice, but I don't think you'll find us talking about 'matrix management"..we repeatedly say "matrix organization".

In general usage, a "matrix organization" does not refer to a fundamentally vertical org with some projects in it. That said, there are no recommendations we made that do not work in weak structures. We've tried them there and they work fine.

And, we promise, someday, we're going to address project management, probably in a series. Sorry if that was confusing. Nevertheless, we come by our preference for vertical organizations legitimately - sorry that we disagree.

And finally, you'll do better in the future addressing our behavior rather than characterizing our emotional state.



Is this a

Is this a coincidence?

Harvard Business Review covers the same topic...

Lincoln, Believe it or not, it WAS a


Believe it or not, it WAS a coincidence. :-)


Lincoln - Not only was it a

Lincoln -

Not only was it a coincidence (this cast was recorded a while ago), but take another look at the article and ask what one could really learn from the prescriptions suggested.

I love that one word: "Bolster", as a recommendation.

How does one "bolster"???


Hi Mike & Mark A while back (June

Hi Mike & Mark

A while back (June 19th) Ced asked about the influence tool mentioned a few times in the Matrix Organization casts. Can you help us set our expectations and provide and estimated date of release of the tool? In the cast you had indicated it would be released soon. For me, 'soon' has resulted in a daily check for the tool.

Thanks very much. I can't wait to get my hands on another quality Manager Tools products.

Joe Nichols

Joe- Sorry we were not clear. I


Sorry we were not clear. I regret out lack of clarity.

Soon meant in the next couple of months. We didn't mean days.

But we are working on it.


I love this one, too, from the same

I love this one, too, from the same article: "Think about who is making demands on your time and attention".

OK, I've thought about it. Now what?


Hi Mark and Mike, Are you guys

Hi Mark and Mike,

Are you guys planning on coming with a special promotion to get the interview series and premium content at a great discount, something like a afterthankgiving sale :-)

Oh, something like

Oh, something like that.


Mark, I have lot of folks lined up


I have lot of folks lined up including me, just want a GOOD deal. Hope you will consider it soon...let us give people the buying power, may be economy will come back :-)

ecineko, It's a GOOD deal at twice the

It's a GOOD deal at twice the price. But don't take my word for it. Here are some comments from the forums:

"I am Scottish in the 'tight' sense of the word and would recommend this to anyone wanting to make a mark ... or a Mike?. With the current exchange rate this is a steal."

"You won't regret it. It's a steal at 3x the current price IMHO."

"Buy the series. It is unbelieveable value."

"I have just gone through a recruitment process and landed the job. Jumped 2-3 levels and doubled my salary. I give credit for this to the Interviewing Series."

"A bargain at twice the price... "

Oops- Just oddurrec to me - you may


Just oddurrec to me - you may be talking about a different interviewing tool.... ;-)


Mark & Mike, I have recently

Mark & Mike,

I have recently introduced by one of my friend to this podcast and my first listen was matrix orgn part 1 & then 2.I am so impressed with the way discussions go on between you both, I immediately subscribed to premium content.

I regret for being introduced this podcasts too late...(its better late than never) but I catch with the remaining podcasts and keep improving my managerial skills.

keep up the good work and quality content.


Hi Mark Hi Mike I understand your

Hi Mark
Hi Mike

I understand your point and how you believe it doesn’t work.
I work in a matrix organization, and guess what: I fully agree with you!

I found myself behaving as you recommend on your cast and I am really loving it.
I believe you have just stated the way how to make the Matrix Org most effective!!!!

Nevertheless, at this point, it is not clear to me that the reasons you said it doesn’t work are valid. Lets wait and see.

Do you see any way to mitigate the Matrix Orgs risks that can leverage its power?


I'll be honest. Before this series I

I'll be honest. Before this series I had never even heard of a matrix organization. Now I understand what it's going to take to be a champ within the context of the non-prof that I work in.

This series was the missing "adapter" that I was needing. Now I can plug all of the manager tools in and expect results.

Thanks very much!


btw sorry about my lame screen name...

btw sorry about my lame screen name... I don't know how to change it.

Hi Mike & Mark, I recently started

Hi Mike & Mark,

I recently started listening to the podcasts. Excellent stuff.

I work in a matrix organization and all your advice and warning of the pitfalls ring true. I am puzzled though on how you would recommend to "non-matrix" it. Here's the situation:
- global IT support, previously run separately in a center in each region
- now a global organization. People are still in each region so they can be the face to the countries in their region in their timezone.
- operationally they report globally. e.g. the PC Division leader in each center reports to a global PC Manager, but on the matrix they report to a regional service manager who is the main lead to the internal customers and is their HR / salary boss.

You correctly say the push to global companies increases likelihood of matrix organizations. Do you have a recommendation for companies wanting to have a globally consistent service across the regions without being a matrix ? Do you:
1. Stick to regional centres. You can have a global advisory unit to push commonality but really the direct reporting relationship stays regionally, or
2. One center - move everybody to one location and work shifts. (Very costly and disruptive obviously), or
3. Work globally. Just have the global direct reporting relationship and cut out the regional manager to avoid ambiguity. How then do you manage HR etc if the managers are in a different country.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Organizational Influence Tool

Just finished the Managing in a Matrix podcast (yes, I'm catching up om previous cast). The Organizational Influence Tool was mentioned and I haven't been able to find it on the site. Can you point it out to me?
Paul (in Burke)

The other way around

I've worked on a matrix organization for the past 5 years, after working on vertical ones.

Basically I recognize most of the caveats that you mention, but while you address these as unsolvable due to intrinsic nature of humans, I think that dealing with them is all about getting use to how to work in the matrix.

Vertical organizations have been here for as long as humans exist, this is the only reason why people tend naturally to accept them better, and why are easier to deal with: no one knows anything else they are the easy way out., they are simple.

But once you get used to making of networking and communicating a routine, they actually payback. 

As one of my former bosses in the vertical one said, if you want to promote, kill your boss. This is of course an exageration, but it nice exemplifies  the main issue with vertical organizations: power is what people ultimately seek not personal improvement, not effectiveness.  In a matrix, this attitude doesn't  work  you simply have to be good and excel at what you do to be noticed recognized and respected by peers and superiors (they do exist, don't get mistaken) and you have to do it transparently, honestly, and openly

You put landing on the moon as a good example of superiority of a vertical organizations, but you fail to reflect on how much effectiveness could have been gained on a matrix. They did land, but at what cost, under what schedules, did they meet deadlines? Could all that been improved in a matrix organization? We'll never know, but don't get too biased by your pesonal bad experiences..

Contrarily to what you guys say, I don't think that the purpose of matrixes is to reduce power in order to increase communication. It is rather the other way around, the goal is to increase communication and as a consequence power is attenuated. But don't confuse power attenuation with lack of leadership  nor lack of clearly defined decision makers, those two do exist in well run matrixes, and they gained their respect simply by being better, not by having good empowered friends or by inviting bosses to dinner. 

All in all, I understand how at first matrixes with can get confusing, indeed  is easy to get lost at first, but once you find your way is much more rewarding than vertical ones and time will show that overall more effective. 

Remember the borg, Resistance is futile...

Abelf- Actually, the fact


Actually, the fact that vertical organizations have been around forever is not the only reason why they are here.  Social biologists have been saying for years that regardless of the setting, humans seek vertical structure, and will self organize into a vertical org without any need to do so from an output perspective.  Social creatures do this for various reasons.

So, just because it's the oldest doesn't mean it's the least advanced. In fact, it has nothing to do with's just how we're wired.