Methods of Matrix Management for Scaling Engineering Operations

How can you increase the size of your engineering staff? The use of a matrix structure for planning and organizing.

John, the Head of Software Engineering for Viacom’s international media and technology services, is responsible for overseeing development teams in New York City, London, Berlin, Milan, and Warsaw. In a recent webinar hosted by Works, John discussed two of the most pressing issues faced by engineering managers around the world.

  • An important consideration when striving to create high-performing, agile teams and recruit top-notch engineers is how to effectively recreate exceptional hiring and team cooperation at a scale that is both rapid and sustainable. This raises the question of how to best achieve this goal in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Should we follow the example of Captain Kirk or Captain Picard in leading the team? (Seriously.)

John, during the webinar, argued that the “matrix management” approach championed by Picard is more effective than the authoritarian style of management favored by Captain Kirk at Apple during the 1990s. John suggested that two prominent cases of direct management are Steve Jobs and Captain Kirk.

It is important to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of businesses fail, and almost all software projects have a tendency to be delivered late and incur additional costs. This is not due to a lack of foresight, resources or the ability to quickly adapt; rather, it is a result of our top-down approach to management.

Matrix management is a concept that encourages the consideration of multiple perspectives when making decisions and has been utilized by organizations such as Spotify to develop a culture of self-directed teams who are able to generate tangible results with minimal guidance from superiors. John emphasizes the importance of team cohesion, as it is not feasible to expect outstanding performance from a group of individuals simply by bringing them together. This strategy is complex, however it is fundamental for the growth of engineering without compromising quality.

Alternatives to Destructive Matrix Management

Despite common belief, employees may not necessarily object to matrix management. John, for example, distinguishes between matrix supervision, which he believes involves “too many bosses”, and matrix resourcing which gives him “the flexibility to create while yet working cooperatively towards a shared objective”. Consequently, in a matrix organisational structure, cross-functional teams are utilised to support vertical business units.

Looking for more information on how matrix management might benefit your engineering team? You may view the webinar whenever you want.

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