Leading in a Virtual Matrix: Part Two

| By TMA World

How to Speed Up Decision Making in a Matrix Organization

(Click here to read part one of Leading in a Virtual Matrix)

Creating a supportive virtual environment is essential to virtual matrix productivity, but the overall success of the virtual matrix in achieving strategic goals is also dependent on what we call the virtual matrix leader’s Decision Flow Governance.

Matrix complexity and confusion can create enormous drag on getting things done.  Decision inertia is a particularly damaging barrier to high virtual matrix performance.  Decision Flow Governance is a leader’s primary tool for creating the conditions for efficient and effective critical decision making.

The virtual matrix leader(s) must first identify critical decisions, i.e. decisions that will have the most impact on whether the strategic goals of the business are achieved or not.  You could do this randomly, but it is more productive to work systematically.  

The Virtual Matrix System

We can think of the virtual matrix as a system (not just a structure) which is dependent on ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ components.  

 

Virtual Matrix Hardware

Structure: The organizational infrastructure, e.g. roles and responsibilities, reporting lines, systems and processes to recognize and reward, and critical processes (e.g. decision making, problem solving). 

Technology: The communication and collaborative technologies that facilitate information flow and collaboration. 

Virtual Matrix Software

People: The mindsets and skills enabling superior performance in a complex organization – skills like influencing without authority, managing conflict constructively, demonstrating emotional intelligence and having tolerance for ambiguity.

Norms: The social expectations that guide everyday behaviors in the matrix, e.g. responding quickly, sharing knowledge, respecting differences and open dialogue.   

Whether leadership in the matrix is one person or several, all components of the virtual matrix system should be audited to ensure critical decisions are aligned, disciplined, of high quality, and are timely.

Tips on How to Speed Up Decision Making

Virtual Matrix Hardware:

Structure
  • Identify critical decisions that will impact strategic goals the most.
  • Declutter and simplify structures and processes (especially decision making) to accelerate progress.
  • Prioritize horizontal processes aim at the external customer.
  • Clearly define and communicate vertical, horizontal, and diagonal reporting relationships, as well as procedures for managing conflicting needs.
  • Create the role of an objective virtual matrix guardian to create virtual matrix metrics, monitor performance, and make recommendations to virtual matrix leader(s).
  • Define and communicate functional, project, and geographic roles and responsibilities and decision rights.
  • Ensure all individual virtual matrix members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Keep stakeholders to a minimum to avoid unnecessary barriers.
  • Make sure critical decisions have only one owner; virtual matrix members can have more than one manager, but critical decisions cannot.
Technology
  • Keep IT as simple as possible.
  • Ensure IT support is available regularly.
  • Choose technologies that enable structured collaboration in formal teams, and unstructured collaboration in informal networks (to promote knowledge and best practice sharing across the organization).
  • Collect data to support critical decision making, as well as data to help improve virtual matrix performance, e.g. to identify problems earlier.
  • Educate users in not only how to use each technology, but how to vary and mix them for best communication results.
  • Use technology for social engagement as well as task communication.
  • Automate routine processes to increase information flow – aim to get the right information to the right person, at the right time, in the right format.

Virtual Matrix Software:

People
  • Support team members in developing a mindset that supports the functioning of the virtual matrix, e.g. discipline and accountability, broad perspective (on the organization and beyond), adaptability, openness and a willingness to share.
  • Develop people with the skills necessary to perform well in the virtual matrix, e.g. collaboration, digital fluency, cultural intelligence, virtual communication and teamwork, managing conflict and negotiation.
  • Develop systems and processes to recognize, reward, and reinforce behaviors that drive virtual matrix performance, e.g. demonstrating cooperation, sharing knowledge and skills, taking initiative to resolve problems quickly, being inclusive of differences.
Norms
  • Respond quickly to one another.
  • Be transparent; no hidden agendas.
  • Avoid territoriality; work for the greater good, e.g. the virtual matrix team, the company, the customer.
  • Resolve disagreements with constructive problem-solving; no personal attacks.
  • Promise to attend virtual meetings and be well-prepared and on time.
  • Be open with each other about ideas, challenges, and feelings.

Any matrix is going to be messy; that is the reality of this kind of complex organization.  We can however, reduce the messiness significantly by taking a systematic approach to making sure the conditions are right for making our critical decisions.

Whether it’s working more effectively across cultures, performance improvement or enhanced virtual teamwork, find out how our solutions can work to position your organisation for success in today’s world.

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