Your role is ‘Champion of Continuous Improvement’…
When you recognize that your business is a key part of the global economic matrix, you can grow and develop along with it, by working matrix style, as and when needed. Matrix organizations came about in the 60’s in the project-based aeronautics sector. Collaborative teams and synergy put Americans on the moon. Unlike traditional hierarchies, employees working in a matrix report to more than one manager while the project team reports directly to the leader… you!
For business growth and wealth creation to happen, you and all of your employees must do 2 jobs; 1) the day job, and 2) the task of continuously improving the day job. Job 2 is an ongoing, project-based, business need and can best be achieved by working matrix style. The need is permanent but the matrix teams are temporary when based on projects or current issues. And when your enterprise does it right, cost reductions, profit improvements, employee engagement and morale, are all positively impacted.
Continuous improvement is a must in this day and age. Matrix working is a key way to tap into the creativity and innovation of your people. But where to start? Managing outside of the usual authority structure is hard at first. At PBC, we have good results using a RACI matrix – R (responsible), A (accountable), C(communicated with), I(informed). It’s about asking the right questions such as, ‘who will be doing what?’ ‘Who has what authority?’ and ‘who needs to be kept up to date as work progresses?’
5 Top Tips for Matrix Working
1. Learn yourself and train others to ‘influence without authority.’ A good starting point is Robert B. Cialdini’s video that is on our YouTube channel: Science of Persuasion. Practicing the “Platinum Rule” that we often refer to: “treat people as they wish to be treated” would also be of great value. Using DiSC analysis is very helpful here to better understand yourself and others.
2. Team delegation: The person doing the job knows it best. So delegate business issues to cross functional project teams. Appoint a project team leader, while you embrace the role of champion for continuous improvement. At PBC, we coach a systematic approach to delegation.
It’s like a journey with 4 stages:
a. Prepare to delegate to your new team. They will need a clear statement of desired outcomes. Working guidelines or steps to follow, such as the IMPROVEment cycle below. A roll call of team members who are key stakeholders in the project.
b. Plan the inaugural team meeting. Think ahead about what support – especially in terms of time, ‘job 1’ cover and other resources – the team will need. Remember they will be assessing your commitment to the task all the way. So don’t make promises you can’t keep.
c. Lead the first matrix team discussion. Listen with empathy to all team members and provide support without taking over. The champion of continuous improvement is also the cheerleader.
d. Follow up and support the matrix team as they work through the IMPROVEment process. Build trust and engagement by providing resources and training as your business changes for the better. See our prior newsletter on effective delegation.
3. Refer to your Vision: A key element in the leadership role of championing continuous improvement is to paint the ‘big picture.’ Take every opportunity to put the team’s efforts in the context of your Vision. Encourage them in what they are doing and say why their achievements are important to your customers, other employees, and the business as a whole. Lead a culture and organizational structure which supports the matrix management concepts.
Consider the elements of Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a team: Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and team Results. These are key components to making the matrix work.
4. Avoid the urge to take over: Particularly at the outset, but also throughout a project, a key aspect of championing continuous improvement is to share what you are thinking, your rationale for the project, and how you feel about things. And never to undermine the project manager by taking over, but rather always provide support.
5. A systematic approach to IMPROVEment: Help your teams with a consistent set of guidelines as they approach the task. We call it the IMPROVEment cycle. It goes like this. The starting point is INVESTIGATE current situation; ‘I do not have enough repeat customers.’ ‘I’m losing out to XYZ corp.’ ‘I’m frustrated by the waste in my inventory control system.’ MAP the process. Measure the current situation. People with an input to the map are stakeholders and the natural candidates for the matrix team roster. PROVE the underlying causes of problems with data, ’cause and effect’ analysis and evidence.
Pareto (the 80-20 rule) analyze for issues to focus on, one at a time. RETHINK the issue and brainstorm possible solutions. ORGANIZE a test run or simulation of each solution. VERIFY that your chosen solution has a significant impact on the issue. EDUCATE everybody in the new methodologies.
Matrix working for continuous improvement is a big investment in any business. It is definitely outside the comfort zone of most leaders. But the payoff can be huge, with greater job satisfaction, improved morale, ongoing cost reductions, and one-off profit improvements. In short, real wealth creation.
For more on Matrix Working, you may consider the following PBC resources:
To learn more about ways to grow and systemize your business, call PBC for a free no-obligation consultation.