Monday, November 17, 2008

Ready to Enter the Matrix?

Do you work in a matrix organization? If you work for a Western company, most likely you do. Matrix organizations are those that pool functional groups under a manager -- electrical engineers work for the EE Manager, salespeople work for the Sales Manager, etc. In addition to that, product or project managers take required people from each pool, and organize them around a goal or project. Matrix organizations allow for project teams to be tightly focused on a goal, but also allow like skills to be pooled together, which contributes to skill development and sharing of ideas. I think matrix organizations are the most effective structure, but they are also confusing to staff. As you may have noticed, each person may report to two different managers -- their functional manager, e.g. the Electrical Engineering Manager, and also to a Project Manager.

Most Chinese companies that I have worked with are organized around a more hierarchical structure, usually functional. Your Chinese employees may not be familiar with the matrix organization, something that you take for granted. Try dropping your new Chinese engineer into your matrix, without any orientation program, and you can be certain that he will feel confused by seemingly conflicting demands and a complicated reporting structure.

If you want to retain your best Chinese employees, take the time to make sure they understand how your global organization works. It's likely your company is a matrix of some kind, and your Chinese employees will need some time to understand the benefits of the matrix organization.

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