Tomorrow’s successful European company needs matrix management if it is to survive. This case study is a real example of a company achieving that management style, even if it was driven to it by accident.
Established in l985, the business has been grown profitably year on year by its owner manager. It is successful in a highly competitive niche of both low margin products and high value services. It changed its policies in order to meet the challenge of growing a skilled workforce in an environment of many vacancies for fewer skilled people and now conversion to PLC status is planned.
The company has a loyal workforce and customer base, and is about to relocate to premises twice the size, staying local in a country area several miles from the metropolis. The relocation will increase costs substantially, although it is accepted that this is the only option to allow continued growth and a public flotation. Sales growth is crucial.
There were a number of employment challenges. The sales manager departed with some staff to join another competing supplier. The motivation of existing staff fell, reducing the quality and quantity of activities.
The managing director was unable to divert time from other strategic issues immediately, yet to meet growth expectations the team had to double in size and existing staff productivity had to improve. Additionally other local brand-name employers were also growing and could afford larger advertisements for the few available people in the locality.
The managing director’s priority was to fill the sales manager role quickly, and delegate to this person the role of recruiter and trainer for both new and existing staff. He decided to select an ‘interim manager’ (Clive Bonny) for many reasons:
* Immediate focus on headcount priorities without the high cost and time of recruitment agencies.
* An outsider who could introduce new ideas and change processes without political concerns of treading on the bosses’ toes.
* Someone who would ensure the filling of the sales management vacancy without rushing and without deferring the recruitment of the many other posts.
The ‘interim’ would have neither the time nor the inclination to make existing jobholders dependent on him/herself. In this way the existing team would have to become more independent in managing themselves.
* The discomfort of having an ‘agent of change’ for only a short period (6 months) would allow a natural period of consolidation to follow.
The Interim’s initial task of nearly doubling the size of the sales team was completed within the first 35 working days. Half those recruited were initially taken on a temporary basis for periods ranging from 4 to 12 weeks. This allowed both parties a ‘try before buy’, and facilitated fast decision making whilst allowing a safety net for a negative fit.
Some of the temporary staff were students in their last year of college or university. Their status as part-timers for vacation work had resulted in other local employers not offering them responsible and demanding tasks – and the students themselves had low expectations of jobs available.
The Interim recruited and trained them as a group, thereby reducing induction time and costs, and subsequently received commitments for their return in further vacation periods, with plans to convert to fulltimers the next year. The advantages were:
* Providing cover in vacation periods when existing fulltimers preferred to be on holiday.
* Avoiding the initial high costs of new fulltimers.
* Spreading induction over a longer period rather than ‘sudden immersion’.
* Building a bank of loyal returners to call up for future fulltime roles as tried and tested people.
Following the recruitment, the interim manager organized a series of teambuilding days. These were held away from the office and allowed team-members to think and plan for themselves across a wide number of topics including:
* Creating joint business plans which allowed input from both sales and service personnel within territories.
* Forming functional teams on a ‘matrix’ basis so that similar functions in different regions could link up with each other.
* Agreeing a cascade of team meetings, starting monthly for the whole department, then into territory and functional channels.
* Setting their own goals and targets, as well as the tracking and monitoring processes so progress could be charted and shared between all individuals.
This transfer of responsibility to all staff has re-motivated existing staff team-leaders, thereby preparing them in advance for supervisory or management positions. The decision to employ flexible working practices is resulting in a culture change for the business as a whole.
Thus the role of “Sales Manager” is not needed for a self motivated, flexible sales force and is likely to be replaced by a “business process improver” to facilitate team working and the relationships with external business partners.