Matrixed organizations are designed to maximize flow of products or services by minimizing the numbers of redundant functions within divisions and by increasing collaboration between operational and functional areas. Yet matrix and often global organizations are often seen as unwieldy and hard to navigate.

This is where the process of identifying and managing critical intersections occurs. Simply put, the easiest and most elegant way to navigate a matrix is to map the organization, identify those people with whom you have to have successful outcomes, then go out and, as one of our favorite clients says, “Make and cut your deals.” What this means is that people who are involved in any critical intersection, whether it involves working across a matrix, in an intersection between a functional and an operational area, or who operate as teams of people that pursue similar customers, must connect with one another, define what is important to them, listen for what is important to others, affirm what is important to the organization, and then make (and keep) agreements.

This is relational intelligence (RI) at its finest, which accomplishes several things concurrently: It builds those critical relationships within the informal organization; it accelerates decision-making and accountability as the right people are talking directly to one another about what matters; and it makes a complex structure significantly easier to navigate in the service of the customer. It also serves to free up senior leaders, who are not asked nearly as often to make day-to-day decisions and can thus spend more time on the larger issues critical for the senior team. A CFO of a major financial institution commented that the “ticket of admission” for her to think strategically was how well the people who reported to her were handling operational issues across the global organization. She was surprised at how few ties she had to break and how few impasses made it to her desk.

Identifying and managing those critical intersections is an important step in creating collaboration and minimizing turf or tribe. It also drives employee engagement as employees one to three levels below the Top Team make decisions that support critical priorities, grow in their roles and capabilities, and deliver faster responses to customer needs.

Ask yourselves these questions and then go have the dialogue with those important to your success:

  • How do I best navigate the matrix and work across the enterprise?
  • Have I created a system map that defines my critical intersections?
  • Have I “made and cut my deals” with the people with whom I have critical interdependencies?
  • Am I able, and willing, to be direct and honest with these people to ensure that all issues are on the table?

You are on your way to becoming a Top Team.

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