Life in a Rubik’s Cube World

Once upon a time, in complex reporting relationships at work, professionals had two managers – a hard line and a dotted line, commonly called a matrix manager. These grew out of organization designs involving pools of resources available to leverage functional experts on projects. So people gained a manager for their project assignment in addition to their manager in their home base department (ex: Finance, R&D, HR). Now that 2012 draws near, this concept seems like it evaporated with Y2K.

In today’s world, I believe most professionals would love to go back to such “complex” reporting relationships. The current reality in large organizations is that the higher up you get in the company, the more managers you juggle. For example …

If you’re a VP of Sales, you likely interact regularly with leadership for:

  • Your Business Unit (or Service Line, depending on the terminology your company uses)
  • Your function
  • The geography your Business Unit rolls up under, and
  • Potentially a corporate/parent company

This doesn’t include yet any cross-functional dependencies you may have, and any special projects or task-forces/assignments likely required for your continued development. Very quickly this could add up to five or six “bosses” in some fashion.

I call this new level of complexity and networking life in a Rubik’s cube world. You may think the puzzle disappeared with Y2K, but of course, now there’s an app for that! My point is that now everything connects to other moving parts. When you turn a piece on one plane, it has ramifications on other planes, just like the famous puzzle. The level of stakeholder management required by executives who operate successfully in this environment has escalated exponentially.

When you have a concept to sell internally, no longer can you just get your immediate manager on board (and perhaps that person’s manager also), and then move ahead to implement. Now you must sell the concept 10 times in 10 different meetings to 10 different sets of stakeholders. Sound like a gauntlet? It requires new and different skills than ever before.

How do YOU navigate life in a Rubik’s cube world? I plan to share more thoughts on this topic in future blog posts, but would love to hear from you on it too.

Please comment below and/or contact me on Twitter at @BetsyWinkler1.