Two Tools for Analyzing Conflicting Matrix Priorities

| By TMA World

Conflicting goals and task priorities are a fact of life in a matrix.  Individuals from different functions, product and customer groups, and, perhaps, different geographies cannot be brought together on a common project without their differences being in tension.  Ideally, the differences will exist in a state of creative – and not destructive – tension.   Achieving creative tension, however, takes work – sometimes a lot of work.

To some extent, conflicting goal and task priorities can be identified and analyzed early.  As the proverb tells us: “Forewarned is forearmed.”  Conflicting priorities can emerge as a project evolves over time, and these can be the most destructive because they surprise – or even shock – those involved.  

In general:

  1. Be as proactive as you can
  2. Understand the power relationships in the conflict (as they impact you and others)
  3. Understand the reasoning for different priorities before blaming one another; ask questions rather than simply state a position
  4. Uncover shared interests beneath the positions taken
  5. Be emotionally neutral; don’t take the conflicting priorities personally
  6. Promote side-by-side problem solving rather than confrontation
  7. Use your judgement. Not all priorities are created equal

Matrix Team Goals and Task Map

The purpose of this tool is to identify gaps in priority tasks to achieve matrix team goals, identify misalignments and redundancies, or differences in perceptions.  If individuals, teams, or functions do this separately at first, then differences become obvious and can be addressed through negotiation.

The map can also be used to uncover different perceptions of matrix team goals which, of course, is an even more critical problem than differences in perceived task priorities.  Without shared goals, a matrix team can never achieve laser focus or a shared sense of identity.
 

Value/Feasibility Grid

Another way to look at goal and task priorities is to see them through the lens of a Value/Feasibility Grid.  What is the potential value of a goal/task and is it feasible given the context (e.g. financials, time, people, and willingness to cooperate)?

Use of such tools does take an investment of time and effort, but the longer-term gains can be substantial.  Everyone wants to avoid over-analysis, but under-analysis is just as great a danger.

Matrix Team Reflections

  1. How does your matrix team currently identify and manage conflicting goal/task priorities?
  2. Does this approach work well for the team?
  3. Could use of the Matrix Team Goals & Task Map and Value/Feasibility Grid increase your matrix team effectiveness?

Discover more about the skills you need to gain competitive advantage in a matrix environment here.

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