I was once speaking with regional head of a large MNC responsible for the EMEA region. He was one among the top talent, with great positivity and was doing very well in the company. During the conversation, we got on to the topic of some of his challenges in the role and he said “You know Karunesh, I don’t know if I am running this region as the MD or I am running a council with many independent members. It almost feels like I report to everyone in the HQ and no one reports to me within my region.”

During another conversation with VP of a large MNC, she commented that in their organization the most important capability of a successful employee is “to navigate through internal organization to get things done”. Technical and commercial competency is given.

Working in a matrix structure requires a completely different set of attitude, behaviour and skills.

I agree with them to a great extent. The role of managers and leaders have changed significantly in recent times. In a matrix structure most employees end up working with many managers and depending on the focus area, follow the instruction of the most important stakeholder.

Leadership sets the culture: In one of the organizations, I saw how an indirect sourcing person was sitting idle while another sourcing person was putting in 16 hours a day to clear POs. This is because their respective managers did not want to proactively share resources and local Sourcing manager felt helpless.


Leadership sets the culture. The way leaders behave, react and talk about other functions sets the tone for employees to work in a matrix organization.

Ambiguity is the new reality: In the new world of organization and structures, ambiguity is the new reality. Working amidst ambiguity, with an uncommon élan, is what will differentiate a leader.

Managers don’t control employees anymore: In a connected world where employees get to work with multiple managers, they have the possibility of creating multiple sponsors for themselves. This will ensure that never will a single manager be able to control the destiny and career of an employee, a much needed sigh of relief for everybody.

Advantages are plenty: While we talk about the challenges a matrix organization structure, reality is that there is much more than what meets the eye. It connects the organization, provides functional depth and raises the bar of performance.

Decision making is the biggest challenge: Making decisions can be a challenge if you get lost in pleasing multiple managers. It is equally important to differentiate between the stakeholders and the decision makers to decide where to draw the line.

Gone are the days when a solid line reporting or a dotted line reporting made a huge difference. Today, it is all about creating a formidable clout of influence.

About the author

Karunesh is Founder and CEO of Change Et Al. Karunesh works with a range of companies helping transform businesses, driving change initiatives, M&A and HR transformation. Karunesh is also a trainer, facilitator and speaker. Change Et Al. team consists of HR, Lean Six Sigma, Technology, Communication and M&A experts spread across India, SEA, Middle East and the firm is headquartered in Singapore.