The Matrix Management approach can have a tremendous impact on your organization. It provides management teams immediate access to valuable resources and cuts through the layers of communications. But that is exactly why matrix management can fail so easily. Why are there layers of management anyway? In the context of this discussion it is to protect those valuable resources from abuse and neglect. Another key point of the silo effect is the mentoring component; to provide one-on-one mentoring to a developing staff.
There are several key themes to successful matrix management.....and they all rely on communications. One of the most critical is what I like to call shuttle diplomacy. If a decision is being considered, the matrix staff needs to ensure that everyone with a dotted line has been consulted, advised and updated. Even in the days of e-mail, this needs to be a personal communication (preferably face-to-face). Go from office to office down the executive row communicating to each and then gaining consensus.
Another key element is the responsibility of management (ALL management) to guard against abuse of the resource. Matrix management DOES NOT mean that 8 dotted lines equal 8 times the work load. Matrix management DOES NOT mean that 8 dotted lines equal 8 voices in every decision.
The final key element of matrix management is the level of trust you place in the resource. If you have a staff with 8 dotted lines, odds are that the resource has an expertise that is to be shared. TRUST that expertise and defer to it (OFTEN). Don't second guess your resource.
Matrix Management is a dual responsibility. The conduit is communications. The results are powerful when you manage it effectively. It is disastrous when mismanaged.