When I was new to the workforce, I was violently opposed to matrixed organizational structures. “They’re bullsh*t,” I thought, “people will always favor one direction over the other, making one of the two managers superfluous. And, if that’s the case, then why bother at all?”
It was only as Business Objects grew, and me with it, that I realized matrix structures weren’t an “if” but a “when” and the ability to work within such structures would become a defining attribute of someone who “could scale” within the organization as it grew.
As the head of worldwide marketing, the defining question to me was simple — say, for example, the French country marketing VP came to me and said, “which is it, am I French or am I in marketing?”
The answer was, inevitably, both.
- You are supposed to be a right-hand to the French country manager. You are supposed to worry about the French pipeline and the French sales number. You are supposed to work on French go-to-market strategy. You drive French public relations.
- You are in marketing. So you are supposed to be consistent with the positioning and messaging that use worldwide. We want you to use programs that have worked elsewhere to improve cost-efficiency and we want you to contribute back to the worldwide marketing community by attending leadership meetings, sharing best practices, and leveraging common systems.
Like it or not, you’re both. And, more importantly, if you can’t handle that, then perhaps you’re not the right person for the job.
But given my historical views on matrices, we didn’t do the classic “solid one-way and dotted the-other” reporting structure. We created a double solid-line matrix that, to me, more accurately reflected the business reality. It also gave the matrix some teeth. I thought the model worked quite well, balancing local empowerment with global consistency and scale economy.
That’s how I, a dyed-in-the-wool anti-matrix person, became a big fan of matrices. The fact is, as a company grows, certain leaders in the organizations will inevitably need to have dual allegiance. For example:
- The head of product marketing for a business unit owes allegiance to both marketing and the product business unit.
- The head of sales engineering for a country owes allegiances to both the country and the worldwide sales engineering organization
- An head of overlay sales for a given product owes allegiance to both the product unit and the sales organization
In fact, in a perverse way, as either the head of marketing at Business Objects or the head of a product business unit at Salesforce, I have noticed the following law:
The more a local leader treats me like a virtual boss, the less I care about reporting structure. And conversely.
That’s my take on the matrix. What’s yours?