My organisation follows a Matrix Style Org Structure. I am a Functional Manager responsible for hiring, training and managing performance for about 20-25 people comprising Permanent, Contract and Consultancy staff. I also own & manage certain initiatives/projects under my functional area. My directs work in different project teams and report to their team leads on a day to day basis. This makes it very difficult (in fact I have very little clue) for me to be up to date with the happenings in their teams and also to know about their individual performance/work. Sometimes I feel that I kind of don’t have the necessary management control over my directs and I have been seriously thinking about this.

I would be keen to get answers/ideas for the following,

  1. Would One on Ones help in this situation, should I be conducting one on ones though I don’t control their day to day work?
  2. Should O3S be conducted for the Contract and Consultancy employees as well? They are an integral part of our org really.
  3. Conducting O3s with 20-25 people needs to too much time, planning and effort really, may be I should do them bi weekly? Also their project schedules and meetings usually take priority as it affects their day to day work, so there will be plenty of situations where I might have to reschedule/cancel my O3S – multiple that by 20-25.
  4. My Most important question is What do I talk in these one on ones, especially if it is for 30 minutes.
  • Generally I like to talk to the point and do not like fluff.  So talking about something in the air for 20-30 minutes is not my kind of style. But I totally appreciate the fact the good relationships can only be built by regularly talking to people.
  • If I leave the meeting open for my directs to talk, the chances are most of them will have nothing to say and might in fact start disliking these meetings and not turn up. Like anywhere there are different kinds of people from different parts of the world with different personalities (it includes some difficult people as well). So I am very nervous about how the meetings would go. The last thing I want is my directs to get frustrated about these meetings
  • I am also concerned that even if some of my directs might have stuff about their work which they can talk for 10 mins, but when it comes to my 10 minutes I am not sure if I would have stuff to talk about which is directly related to them/their work (As I don’t oversee their work). In which case I would be at loss of words really.
  • I am also worried people might not see the value of these meetings as I am not sure if they are going to get anything positively from this – especially week on week. I am a democratic manager and don’t like to force people into doing something and especially when I am personally not convinced that they are going to gain something from it on a regular basis.

I find it a bit tricky to be managing people without involving in their day to day work but at the same time I have an appreciation for a Matrix style structure as I think it’s scalable and beneficial for the company. It’s my role that’s becoming a challenge – mainly from a people management perspective. Would be interesting to learn everyone’s thoughts on this situation.



chris_crabtree's picture
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Wow, this is a good example to me of why matrix style structures are questionable. :-)

But okay, if I were you and I were determined to stay and play it through, this is how I would answer your questions:

1) Yes, absolutely. In fact, I think O3s are *more* important in this situation, because you are going to have to rely even more on your relationship power than in a normal hierarchy. You say you're responsible for managing their performance, which means to me that you need to be involved in their project contributions and other day-to-day work. Given this structure, I don't see a better way for you to do it than O3s.

2) Yes. If they contribute to your effectiveness, you need relationships with them regardless of how the company chooses to 'employ' them.

3) I think that is too many people for weekly O3s, certainly at first. I would start with the most key people, maybe 5 people initially, and the best of those. They will be more professional and more forgiving as you (both) learn to do O3s. Do that a few weeks and then add more. With this many folks, I would look at maybe 10 people doing weekly O3s and then the others will just have to be biweekly. But you should also find that because of the communication improvements, you and they have more time throughout the week.

4) Listen to the O3 casts. This is a common worry, rarely realized.

Good luck!


Kevin1's picture

I agree with Chris.  Not everyone may need a 1 on 1 and maybe not every week if they are only part time or less working on your projects.

Managing in a Matrix is all about communication and it can be challenging.  Try these podcasts for some guidance and ideas on how to work with the members of your dotted team, and with the other managers who have solid line ownership of these resources.

Managing in a Matrix Organization- Part 1 & 2

Productivity In A Matrix- Chapter 1- Communication

Project Manager One on Ones- Part 1 & 2

Peer One on Ones- Part 1 & 2

I was wondering if the 20-25 people that you manage are all at the same level of if there is a hierarchy?  If there is a hierarchy, then you may be able to have 1 on 1s with just the ones who have that dotted line direct to you.

If your project work is a bit sporadic, then there may be weeks that there is nothing really to talk about with regards to work other than what might be coming up so you can get aware of their schedule and you can get aware of their competing objectives. 




vasubelide's picture

Thanks for your ideas. I'll go through the recommended screencasts and start with a small number of people to begin with. And see how it goes. It is a flat structure. Though people are at different experience levels, the reporting line is dotted to me directly. Planning to setup an org structure as well so the number of directs reduces.