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Matrix Management in Today’s World

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By Susan Hughes, GVP, Product Marketing and Global Initiatives

Matrix Management has been around since the 1970s. It has come in and out of favor in business trends over the years, but in today’s world with large companies and the required focus on profitability, it is a must. And yet it is incredibly hard to implement effectively.

As Henry Mintzberg, an internationally renowned academic and author on business and management, said “Every organized human activity – from the making of pots to the placing of a man on the moon – gives rise to two fundamental and opposing requirements: the division of labor into various tasks to be performed, and the coordination of those tasks to accomplish the activity.”

There are a number of interesting articles and blogs about Matrix Management and many indicate that key success factors are teamwork and collaboration.

The “Cracking the Matrix Code” whitepaper by the HayGroup says that the key to success behind successful matrix management does not lie in organizational structure, it lies in the culture. “Managers must not focus on maximizing their own results at a local, country or product level, but instead must act in the best interests of the enterprise as a whole.” Their premise is that optimizing for the whole has implications for job design, rewards programs and behaviors. “Command and control management styles must go by the wayside and give way to teamwork, collaboration and cooperation.” … And “at the very least the CEO must hold people accountable for making this structure work.”

The Harvard Business Review has various blogs about Matrix Management and Teamwork. In the “Lost in Matrix Management” blog post by Gill Corkindale, the challenges and issues that result in less than fully effective organizations include “multiple and complex reporting lines, confusion over accountability, competing geographical and functional targets, lack of role clarity, and too many people involved in decisions,” among other things. Does this sound familiar?

The keys to successful implementation include culture – one of teamwork and collaboration to maximize for the whole; individual behavior management – individual heroism is no longer the way to the top; and rewards and recognition – contribution to the whole.

Call Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland ties this back to our industry – the Business Process Outsourcing / Contact Center industry in Chapter 17 (third edition): “Successful contact center leaders design an organizational structure that facilitates collaboration among and across job roles and business units” … “Above all, successful leaders know that communication is the glue that holds the whole thing together” … and they are “committed to keeping a common vision at the forefront of the culture and the daily activities.”

For SYKES, our major matrix is between regional operations (our sites) and our global account structure. We must optimize for our clients and their businesses, which does not result in optimizing for every site.