Methods of Matrix Management for Scaling Engineering Operations

In order to expand the workforce of engineers, have you considered implementing a matrix structure for planning and organisation?

Viacom’s international media and technology services are led by John, who acts as the Head of Software Engineering. John’s role encompasses supervising development teams across various locations, such as New York City, London, Berlin, Milan, and Warsaw. Recently, during a webinar hosted by Works, John addressed the two most pressing concerns affecting engineering managers globally.

  • When aiming to establish high-performing, agile teams and attract exceptional engineers, it is crucial to find effective ways to replicate outstanding hiring procedures and team cooperation on a large and sustainable scale. This brings up the issue of how to achieve this objective both swiftly and efficiently.
  • When it comes to leading a team, should we take inspiration from Captain Kirk or Captain Picard? (Yes, seriously.)

During the webinar, John expressed his belief that the “matrix management” approach espoused by Picard is superior to the authoritarian management style favoured by Captain Kirk at Apple in the 1990s. John gave examples of two notable cases of direct management: Steve Jobs and Captain Kirk.

It is crucial to remember that the vast majority of businesses are unsuccessful, and nearly all software projects commonly miss their deadlines and come under additional expenses. This is not because of a shortage of foresight, resources, or an ability to adapt quickly; instead, it is the outcome of our management style that follows a top-down approach.

The concept of matrix management encourages the consideration of multiple viewpoints when making decisions. Organizations, such as Spotify, have employed this system to create a culture of self-directed teams that are capable of achieving tangible results with minimal supervision from managers. John stresses the critical role of team cohesion, as excellent performance cannot be expected from a group of individuals merely by bringing them together. Although this approach is intricate, it is integral for engineering growth without compromising the quality.

Substitutes to Detrimental Matrix Management

Contrary to popular opinion, workers may not necessarily oppose matrix management. John, for instance, differentiates between matrix supervision, which he believes involves “too many bosses,” and matrix resourcing, which provides him with “the freedom to innovate while still working harmoniously towards a common goal.” Therefore, in a matrix organisational structure, cross-functional teams are employed to bolster vertical business units.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of matrix management for your engineering team? The webinar can be viewed at any time.

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