How to Succeed in a Matrixed Work Environment

How to Succeed in a Matrixed Work Environment
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Do Your Teams Know How to Succeed in a Matrixed Work Environment?
How is your organization structured? If your employees work on multiple teams and report to multiple managers (directly or indirectly), you are working in a matrixed work environment. In a recent study of over 14,000 U.S. workers, Gallup reported that almost two-thirds of employees operate on matrixed teams.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Matrixed Work Environment
When done right, the advantages of a matrixed environment are increased synergies, engagement, learning, innovation, and performance caused by better communication, higher levels of cross-functional collaboration, and strategic resource allocation. When done wrong, matrixed employees seem to spend more time and effort in negotiations and meetings than actually getting things done.

With so many different responsibilities on various teams and projects, matrixed employees often complain of cognitive overload, role confusion, misaligned priorities, and people not doing their fair share.

How to Succeed in a Matrixed Environment
Based upon change management simulation data, here are four tips on how to take advantage of the positive aspects of a matrixed environment and reduce the negative risks.

  1. Reset Team Expectations
    Before your workers are overwhelmed by responding to growing numbers of emails and meetings with bosses and colleagues with differing agendas, take a break to assess whether you need to work differently. If needed, update team goals and expectations.

    — Are priorities, stakeholders, goals, roles, processes, scope, and interdependencies clear enough? 

    — Do people have the resources and support they need?

    — Are leaders and managers expected to be player-coaches at work?

    — Is there enough psychological team safety and team health to work through challenges in a way that makes sense? 

    — Have team norms been established and followed?

    Things always shift and change.  High performing teams create team charters and reassess team health and performance at least twice per year. 

    Do you know where your teams stand?
  2. Clarify the Project Sponsor and Lead
    When we assess organizational culture, employees who mostly report to the same manager are much more engaged than those who report to different managers. Workers need to know who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a project, so they know who to contact with problems or concerns.

    And managers must do their part by checking in regularly with their team to clarify project priorities. Ambiguity fosters confusion and risks duplication of effort.  Ensure that everyone agrees on both the project sponsor and project lead for every initiative.

    Is ownership and accountability clear enough?
  3. Ensure Leaders are Aligned
    Leaders need to communicate often with each other to ensure their projects are aligned with each other and with the company’s strategy for growth. It may be tempting to try to work in your silo on what you can control or to promote your own team and agenda over others, but this approach rarely delivers a company-wide impact.

    Senior Leaders must be aligned on goals, priorities, and resource allocation.  Project leaders need to work together with as much transparency, collaboration, and communication as they expect of their team members.

    Are your leaders truly aligned on what matters most and why?
  4. Simplify, Reduce, and Adjust Whenever Possible
    Do you really need all team members to attend every meeting? If you thoughtfully narrow the agenda and prioritize what really needs to be discussed, it is easier to only involve the right people.  It takes strategic clarity and discipline to determine what is essential to individual, team, and organizational progress.

    Do you invest the time required to optimize the way work gets done?

The Bottom Line
Matrixed organizations can be powerful engines. But, to succeed, they require clear expectations, empathetic leaders, prioritizing the “important,” and alignment around corporate goals.

To reset your team to work more effectively in a matrixed work environment, download this Team Charter Template

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