Pushing On A String: The Challenges Of Managing Remotely Across A Matrix Organization
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
One of the most challenging positions to find oneself in is managing across a matrix organization. It's even far more difficult if we are managing this matrix organization remotely.
What are some of the difficulties? Well from a traditional management perspective, having the responsibility and especially accountability as a manager) without any real authority is vexing.
It becomes orders of magnitude more difficult when we are dealing with various functional areas (finance vs QA vs engineering vs marketing), various cultures, across different languages (even if we are all speaking English, it may not and most likely today is not the first language of many of our colleagues) and, of course, time zones.
In many instances, to the matrix manager it can feel akin to pushing on a string. And that doesn't get one very far.
However, there is a framework as well as concrete strategies and techniques that can be applied to the situation to anticipate issues as well as mitigate, reconcile or eliminate then as they arise.
First, it behooves us to understand that almost every problem falls into three categories:
And that of those three, 99% of the time, the gating item(s) (not the traversable issues) are or can expect to be interpersonal / communicative in nature.
Second, we can solve much of this, both by anticipating and by how we react by understanding how our matrix team members think.
Notice I said HOW they think. Not WHY they think.
HOW, allows to understand how the process information and structure experience and through that we can create a function that can apply a formula to information or scenarios and understand their reaction. This works even for unexperienced events and phenomenon.
WHY conversely forces us to memorize static data points and makes predicting behavior and reactions to unexperienced events and phenomenon much more tenuous and difficult.
Last, how we set the initial frames and maintain those frames will using influence and persuasion in an ethical manner will determine how well not only we are able to manage our remote matrix but how well the team itself performs.
Sometimes when the orchestra is out of tune it may fall to the feet of the conductor and not the musicians.
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