Personal Consulting Integrity: When Matrix Management is not the Answer
Let me tell you about a client who was very keen for me to visit his business that was part of the EC administration in Northern Europe. The client wanted me to talk with him, his boss and his peers about the implementation of Matrix Management within their organisation.
This Client was incredibly confident and positive about Matrix management but something did not seem right. His peers did not share his enthusiasm and were very resistant to the concept of developing a Matrix Culture
Their departments that comprised the organisation were built along very hierarchical and bureaucratic lines reflecting the EC administration focused their entire time on budgets and projects with little time focused on creating the ’desired’ Matrix Management Culture.
Before the planned Consulting session I became uneasy about the relative readiness for change with the Client organisation. The more I found out about the organisation the more ‘ill at ease’ I became. I was also concerned with the client’s obsession that Matrix Management was the solution to a myriad of problems.
When Matrix Management is not the Answer
I knew Matrix management could deliver all this organisation needed in the long-term – but they were not yet ready for it. It just would not work with the ’resistance’ that was apparent in the organisation. Years of failed attempts at implementing fairly low key ‘change initiatives’ indicated that a major cultural change towards Matrix Management would be inappropriate.
As the final weeks approached towards the start of the intervention I understood from our very specific email and telephone exchanges that no amount of evidence, reference to case studies or presentation power would convince the clients cynical team that the Matrix culture would work for them.
This would be a poor case of a Consulting assignment Solution chasing a Problem!
I was aware from experience that in a hugely hierarchical organisation we would have to identify the very specific benefits of Matrix that would accrue. The right way to progress this would be to outline how ‘Matrix management’ could offer very specific work process flow, cost efficiencies over traditional ways of working – work through product and process flows and demonstrate how through life and customer service could be radically enhanced.
This would require a lot of pre-work and a ‘Discovery Review’ that the client did not think necessary. I knew the existing budget would not stretch to the research and the Workshops.
To Much Faith in the Power of Influence
This is not the first time I have experienced the ‘power of influence’ with my Clients. It does not matter who is on stage – if you don’t have the power of the detail and a structured analysis it does not a matter how gifted you are as a presented – it just will not work. My Client thought the power and the presence of me would be enough. I pointed out that Paul McKenna – the hypnotist would be a better bet!
My Decision to Reject the Project
Initially, I agreed to the project but then decided it was not in the Client’s best interest. Implementing such an advanced strategy, when there was so much cynicism in the culture and active resistance from the top team would have been foolish. It would have been the wrong solution at this time. Matrix may well be the best way for this organisation in the longer term, but not currently.
I lost a client and the fees that go with the work and a trip to Italy – but I have preserved my personal integrity and honesty. When he comes back that Client will get a 100%+ service. The solution will be tailored to where the organisation is currently – not where he would ‘magically’ like it to be.
Consultant Client Relationship and did I lose the Client?
This situation tells me about using experienced change agents. I could have located another Consulting Firm that would have been happy to implement the work – but the solution would have been partial and short lived and inappropriate. That would have been wrong . I do not believe in hammering an ill fitting square solution into a round hole.
The end of the story is that ‘out of the blue’ the Client finally accepted my rationale and he unexpectedly requested me to bill him for 50% of the my initial Consulting fee – because he was impressed that I had told him the complete truth, and he would find the additional fee in the New Year to undertake the ‘Discovery Review’.
And now a case Study on how Virtual Team Working & Matrix Management can contribute in delivering your Projects
Virtual Teams & Matrix Management
I was talking a management group through an hour presentation on Virtual Teams working and covered the unsual hisory of Matrix from pre Nasa days. I was delighted to explain that many cases abound of seamlingly traditional business actually applying innovative Virtual Team solutions.
Airport at Cliffe Scrapped
One such example I talked through was the work of a £90 million turnover business, withi 1600 fte's staff and 15,000 volunteer staff. Yes, I am talking of the RSPB - the Conservation Charity geared up to the protection of Birds and conserving wildlife species and the environment.
I used the example of how the RSPB galvansied the work of specialist to stop the building of the third London Airport at Cliffe on the North Kent estuary. Further, by capitailisng on the merging of specilist teasm with a strong over-riding focus of conservsing the area and the wildlife the RSPB was able to organise a demonstration in London marching to Downing Street to hand in a petition for the Prime Minister demanding the Airport be scrapped.
Cross Society Working & Matrix Mindset
You will be impressed that 150,000 attended that event in 2003. This does not happen by accident. It takes a great deal of effort to breach the boundaries of functional areas and get everybody working in the same direction.
RSPB - for Birds, for People, for Life
This only happens by sharing business goals and developing win-win relationships across the business. Budgets are no longer sacrosanct and reporting relationships appear blurred - but this is not the case. People are working to multiple agendas which the RSPB calls 'Cross Society Working'. this is one of the 7 key principles which are enshrined in the RSPB business culture.
I can be proud to say I have worked with the RSPB for four years embedding a culture change programme and I am glad to say ther are shining example of what organisations can achieved whether they be in the private, public or the third sector.
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