When you are managing with multiple principals, you all likely see the big picture: you all know everything that has to be finished, the projects on your to-do list, and what the end products should look like. Yet, you might find that while you all hold the same big picture, some of your views may be more distorted than others.
In other words, you might feel like a task in one of your projects takes higher priority over a task in another principal’s project, so as a result, you assign members on your team subtasks focusing on accomplishing this priority. However, another principal might see this task that you deem important as a lower priority item. As a result, this principal assigns the same members of your team subtasks to execute that other priority.
When you and your fellow principals are working like this, you create a cluttered environment for not only yourself, but your employees as well. Each principal might not know where their workforce stands, and employees do not know which principal’s commands they should be focusing on which creates a stressful environment.
To remedy this misalignment, you and your employees must come to a consensus to achieve consistency about what is going on at your firm.
In this PowerPoint, we explore:
- Matrix Organizations
- Challenges Faced When Managing With Multiple Principals
- Improving Accountability, Prioritization, and Coordination
- How Priority Matrix Will Help Improve Matrix Organizations
What is a Matrix Organization?
A matrix organizational structure is a company structure in which reporting relationships are set up as a grid, or matrix, rather than in a traditional hierarchy.
Does this sound familiar? It should because most architecture firms meet these characteristics as there are multiple people who are managing the same workforce (for example, a manager of a project and a design manager whom employees report to).
History of the Matrix Organization
This term was coined back in the 1950’s and 1960’s by NASA who had such a complex structure, so they had to reorganize the way that they managed. As they were managing complex programs, projects, and problems, they needed to come up with a way that they could manage with their limited resources.
Since then, it has made its way into many different fields in the workplace where employees report to multiple managers, and it is especially common in the construction and architecture fields.
Challenges Faced Within A Matrix Organization
When principals each share authority with the same workforce, it is very easy for your entire team to not be on the same page. So, it is easy to face challenges of:
When we hear that an employee did not finish what we asked them to finish, we perceive that as a lack of accountability.
Yet, often it is not easy for employees to get everything done that is expected of them when they are swamped with instructions to focus on one thing from one principal and another thing from another principal. Each of these people are their superiors, so it can often feel like an enormous responsibility to be accountable for multiple tasks that need to be done RIGHT NOW.
As mentioned earlier, there is often a ton of misalignment when deciding which tasks are the most critical and time sensitive. When each principal has their own list of tasks that need to be focused on at this instance, and so does each other principal, this creates a need for a discussion to determine which of these competing tasks between all of the principals need to be catered to first and foremost, and which one’s can wait.
If there is no sense of which tasks take priority, then your team will lose focus on what really matters.
The challenge of focusing on what is important ultimately leads into the challenge of meeting deadlines. For example, your team might be focusing on instructions from one principal, making good progress. Then all of the sudden, a project owner calls another principal with an urgent request. In effect, this principal asks the team to shift their gears to focus on this new priority, dropping what they were previously working on.
When situations like the above occur, the principal that assigned the first assignment originally might think that the team is making progress on that assignment, when in reality, they are no longer working on it. As a result, this creates a lot of miscommunication in the workplace.
Solving These Challenges
To improve accountability, you must also improve visibility and eliminate any communication barriers amongst each principal and across your entire team.
Visibility can be attained by using a software or a calendar to visually input everybody’s priorities. This way principals can see which employees are working on what so that they do not assign work to anyone who currently has a huge workload. When somebody’s assignment is laid out, this creates ownership of what is to be done, which will hold them more accountable for the task in the long run.
Communicating clear expectations also plays a role in solving accountability issues. But, how do you communicate to your team what the highest priorities are when each principal thinks that their project is the most important?
First of all, many of these challenges could be resolved if principals communicated with each other about the priorities in each of their projects as well as who they are assigning work to, to create a uniform consensus. However, errors in this form of communication can happen, so you can also improve communication by:
- Communicating what is expected of your employees, why each assignment is a priority, and when it needs to be completed as soon as you assign the project
- Encouraging your employees to communicate when they are working on other high priority items when another principal comes in to assign more. This allows each employee to finish what they are currently working on by deadline, and will improve efficiency because they will have less competing priorities to focus on. In the end, this will optimize productivity because once they finish one assignment, they can move on to another.
In the end, you are one team with common goals: to get everything completed on time and make project owners happy.
In order to set your priorities straight, one technique is to use the 1-3-9 prioritization exercise.
With the 1-3-9 method, you choose a current project that you are working on, and consider all of the current action items. You can list items that need to get done today, this week, or over the entire course of the project.
From there, you give each item a rating, either 1, meaning it is a low priority, 3, meaning it is a medium priority, and 9, meaning it is a high priority item and very important to project success.
Then, ask your direct report to do the same and compare your answers, finding those places of misalignment, and collaborating to create alignment.
Then, try this with the other principals at your firm so that you can get everybody on the same page. This is effective because when working in a matrix organization, it is vital that each principal knows the priorities of other principals so they can keep them in mind when assigning work.
As a result, everybody knows what should be approached first.
After distinguishing your top priorities from lower priorities using the 1-3-9 method, add these items to the proper quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix to ensure that your team is focusing on the right tasks.
The Eisenhower Matrix helps you evaluate tasks according to their criticalness and urgency. Thus, the Eisenhower Matrix is divided into four quadrants:
- Critical and Immediate: highest priority items
- Critical but not Immediate
- Not Critical but Immediate
It is often helpful for architecture firms when each direct report has their own grid. This way each principal has visibility of what each direct report has on their plate and what they are planning to do.
4. Deadlines and Coordination
How can you expect your team to get things done if they do not know that there is a deadline? According to our research, a lack of visibility is most often implicated when it comes to meeting deadlines.
The solution is making everybody more aware of the schedule as well as the priority level of everything on the schedule. This not only improves visibility, but it will also lead to more realistic project scheduling because you and your team will be less likely to schedule seven high priority tasks on the same day. Instead, hopefully your tasks will be spread out keeping their priority level in mind, creating balance.
Matrix Organizations and Priority Matrix
Matrix organizations have very particular needs. In order to be successful in a matrix organization,
- Priorities must be uniform and visible for all (you can use the 1-3-9 principle or the Eisenhower method to achieve this)
- There must be a structure that promotes accountability
- Each team member should have clear visibility of due dates
Priority Matrix can help achieve all of these and more.
What is Priority Matrix?
Priority Matrix is a priority management platform that allows principal architects and their teams to communicate priorities and achieve visibility across their organizations, resulting in increased accountability.
Why Principal Architects Love Priority Matrix
1. Priority Matrix is built for prioritization, loaded with templates like 1-3-9 and the Eisenhower Matrix to help you and your team succeed.
2. You can set a due date on every task that enters Priority Matrix, and then you can integrate Priority Matrix with Outlook, Google Calendar, or iCal, so you will never miss a deadline.
3. You can see a visual view of your due dates with our automated gantt charts.
4. Our platform will ensure that each team member is held accountable as each task in Priority Matrix is assigned to an owner (a little square with their picture located in the task) where you can track their progress of the task.
Try Priority Matrix For FREE
Gather some of your principals and direct reports and sign up for a free Priority Matrix trial here.
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