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In a matrix management structure, I may be delivering work, documents, calculations for 3 different members of senior management, all of whom have a range of priorities defined for the deliverables.

Occasionally I may have a couple of pieces of work with the same timeframe or deadline, and both with the same high priority - from two different managers. Obviously, to each of them their demands may be the most important.

What effective solutions do you have to handle this kind of scenario?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

One word: transparency. Make it very visible what you are working on now and do periodic reports showing that you worked for all three bosses and how much. Have the current list of projects visible before they come to talk to you.

And if your 'queue' is full and they want to add something on the top of the list, something else has to drop down from the bottom. Something of theirs or they have to negotiate with others for different options.

Maybe look at Kanban (specifically their bins/queues) approaches. Again, the basic idea is that you visualize the work and that makes it easier to discuss it.

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You let them work it out between them and do not start the work on either until they do. If you had already started one before the other came up, tell the PM you can't accomodate his deadline due to current workload and that if he wants you to push the other aside he will have to get the agreement of the person who gave you the first task.

And then keep working on the first task. Until told otherwise by the person who assigned it to you (or some person who is higher in level like a VP) that either of the two PMS.

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It's worth considering that do already do this all the time already - I have thinks that I am committed to achieving for my boss, for my friends, and for my family - they all make demands on my time and yet the situation is stable - it's a terribly pretentious phrase but if we consider the 'stakeholders of my time' then my family and friends understand that my working hours are blocked of for other commitments and vice versa - balancing my friends and family is technically harder, but not by much - I communicate with both, occasionally have to make difficult decisions and I'm organised about my time enough that people don't get disappointed often.

The point is that if you are organised enough about your time anyway - the problems arrive much less - I know I'm going to be working on Projects B & C next week - I've told the stakeholders of those projects what they can expect by the end of the week, and the stakeholders of other projects know they won't get anything out of my before the week after at least. If you be aware of your activities far enough in advance, then the domain problems go away.

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@Alexandre Rafalovitch has it right - transparency is KEY. And so is communication. But both can be hugely time consuming if you are having to communicate every detail of your workload individually to each senior manager. Have you considered using a time tracking application that tracks everything for you (and is visible to all the managers). For instance, TSheets time tracking software allows you to set up job codes (so any project that you have to work on and they can be placed in order of importance), click in and out on what you are working on (at any time, any of the managers can see from their own computer what you are currently working on and how long you have been on that project and what project you have in line to work on next), and at the end of the project you can easily pull the numbers to show how much time it took to complete the projects. Being prepared with this information is invaluable when you have 3 people vying for your time - there are only so many hours in the day!!

TSheets Job Coding to Prioritize Tasks Task Totals and Job Codes That Can Be Viewed By All Senior Managers

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Do the best you can, by any means and at the end of the day if you are just not able to finish all the work you have, just tell them that it's because you were working on the other work given by the other manager.

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