In many organizations you can make good progress in your early career by using positional power and traditional authority to get things done. Junior managers often have clear areas of responsibility and accountability and within that area, they are indeed a “big dog” and can use that power to get things done quite effectively. However, once we are promoted to executive level in our organization, or when we start working in a more ambiguous matrix role, we need to build alliances and influence people we do not have formal authority over.
Research suggests that organizations consciously balance span of control(the resources over which an individual has direct control) and span of accountability(the results and performance outcomes for which they are held responsible) to achieve different outcomes.
If we think about the balance between span of accountability and span of control, there are only three options, and each of them drives a very different set of behaviors.
“How can I be accountable for something I don’t control?” “How can I get things done without authority?”
Welcome to the matrix, where multiple bosses, competing goals, influence without authority, and accountability without control are the norm. It is a world where skills, not structure, are the drivers of business and personal success.