In today's increasingly complex business world, most organizational structures incorporate a matrix element. Gone are the days of traditional functional or divisional structures, particularly for businesses with multiple products/services and/or locations. "Managing the Matrix" is a way of life. Organization charts have more dotted lines than a Los Angeles freeway. As a result, collaboration has become a critical competency for today's reliable team. The word says it all: "co-labor," to work together. Collaboration should not be confused (but often is) with consensus.


Collaboration is a way of working together, whereas consensus is a form of decision-making. Allowing collaboration to morph into consensus leads to the similar dynamic of a trial jury. When all team members must agree in order to move forward, any one person can stall a decision. Sliding down the slippery slope of consensus will put the brakes on your team and halt forward progress.


In a speed-craved marketplace, that's the kiss of death. Also, to collaborate well, team members must have clearly defined involvement roles. We suggest simple language and definitions that help your team focus on delivering reliable results:


  1. Owner - The person ultimately responsible for the completion of a project, and the one who assigns tasks and resources. There can be only one owner per project/initiative, and s/he makes final decisions.

  2. Performer - Those who directly perform the tasks. Executors collaborate with subject-matter experts, as needed.

  3. Expert - The person who provides subject-matter expertise as requested by the owner and performer. This typically involves two-way communication about best practices, customer needs and alternative approaches.

  4. Stakeholder - Those who are kept up-to-date on progress by owners and performers, often only on completion of milestones. This typically involves one-way communication with executive or peer stakeholders.

To involve your team in a collaborative way, you must let roles, not egos, drive actions. On any given project, a team member can play different roles. You might be getting informed on today's project and lead a team for next month's project. Clarify team involvement roles to enlist ownership in work process and outcomes.


Zig Ziglar famously said, "You can get just about anything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." This seems to hold true for team members. It's not about who gets the  credit. It's not about who is the leader. It's about helping the other team members accomplish the goal. In that way, everyone is successful.