Leading in a Matrix
Organizations can structure themselves into one of three shapes: geographical, functional, or a combination of the two known as a matrix. All of these structures have strengths and weaknesses. Wise leaders know the times and which structure best fits the context in which they are seeking to accomplish mission.
Much is written about geographical and functional alignments in various contexts, but I recently came across an excellent work by Stanley McChrystal titled, Team of Teams, in which he describes how he led the mission against terror in Iraq by forming a matrix of many highly specialized military units. It’s an engaging read and very practical, with an easy application for those in business and ministry.
In a matrix structure, geographical and functional lines of authority overlap and cross. Where these intersections happen, over-communication is needed to insure common objectives and outcomes. McChrystal talks about creating a shared level of organizational consciousness, where everyone shares common information, with no silos, helping to create organizational transparency which enables easier alignment and accountability for missional objectives.
Having created this common organizational consciousness, the role of the primary leader is to focus on organizational tone and culture, allowing the individual parts to function in their strengths. When that happens, we will get true synergy, where the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Kingdom leaders today are leading in a world full of complexity that is changing at an ever-increasing pace. The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit within us to guide us through this complexity. He will show us which structure fits our missional needs at this time. We rest in knowing that we are not trying to ‘get it right, once and for all.’ Rather, we are trying to get it right for now, knowing that our context will change at some time in the future and we will once again be forced to rethink how best to re-organize.
Organization structure can be consuming and distract us from mission, if we are not careful. It is a means to an end, not an end. We are not looking for a perfect structure, just one that optimally serves us to carry out our mission for the glory of Christ at this time in this context.
How long has it been since you rethought your mission, strategy, and which organizational structure best serves you for the coming decade? Maybe it’s time for a prayerful and thoughtful review?