Matrix of Misery

Larger corporations have embraced the matrix structure for the past 30-40 years. On paper it works perfectly. You have specialist support-functions across business units, sharing their knowledge with more people and sharing experiences across organizational silos and even national borders. Sometimes it actually works as intended. The true benefit is, however, that everybody has something to say and nobody is fully responsible. There is always somebody else to blame if things go wrong.

The true challenge of life in the matrix is however, that above a certain level everybody has more than one boss. This makes the organization more political with people joggling the needs of one executive with those of the second, the third and even the fourth. This is a very un-safe place to work. Who do I align with? Who’s opinion matters most? How to de-code the spoken and the unspoken of all my bosses, aligning with all of them every time I need something done?

In our terminology, this makes a matrix organization lower on “SHIELD”. Because it feels less safe than when you just have one boss to keep happy.

Feeling unsafe at work lowers your performance and raises your work hours with unproductive time. Some extent of politics and internal alignment will always be, but it is hardly ever productive time that the customers will pay you for. Therefore, it tends to add unnecessary time to your weekly schedule as you can’t do it at the expense of your true value-adding assignments.

Matrixes can be a misery of wasted, non-value adding time spend in corridors, endless meetings with everybody present, internal workshops and travelling without customer facing. All the things that nobody will pay you for, so you end up paying yourself.

If you are the CEO of a matrix organization we strongly urge you to cut down on wasted internal time, and enforce a structure with everybody having one boss only. No dotted lines, just internal groups of expertise sharing their knowledge. And watch how much more money you can make when people start spending the majority of their work hours being productive and value adding.