Can You See The Invisible Reporting Line?

Can You See The Invisible Reporting Line?

We all know the debate between “solid” and “dotted” reporting lines. Have you ever considered whether the lines of your key stakeholders are more nearly “invisible?”

Seekers of control, many of us find managing people who have a solid reporting line easiest. They work for us. We define their priorities and evaluate and guide their results. We hire them; we fire them. Given that their results fuel our results, this makes sense. Control is better than lack of control.

However, most of our worlds are far too complex to produce results in solidly-lined groups of people. For a very long time, dotted line reporting has formed a matrixed world. We deploy CFOs into the business. Cross function or cross-geography teams have deployed team members from different functional groups.

In the best of circumstances, the dotted line relationship is clear. The dotted-line manager has accountability for some results to which the person is accountable to him or her. And the solid-line manager has accountability for other results (you know the score). Clarity of expectations and priorities are the grounding for effectiveness in managing these two types of lines. Because the type of relationship is defined by the distinction, it is far easier to develop clarity that is needed (easier, not always easy).

But, what do you do when the line is nearly or completely “invisible.” This question was raised in a conversation with a client this week. When asking about how work gets done across stakeholders, we talked dotted and solid lines. The client said, the lines are more “invisible” with little to no definition of accountability. Work gets done and rolls up into his results. But, how to hold the person accountable is unclear.

I’m going to stop here this morning and ask three questions

  1. Do you get results with people with whom you have an invisible line of accountability?
  2. What are your challenges in managing the people and results?
  3. What have you done to be most effective?

I am thinking about different ways to make that invisible line to appear in our sight. Any deas?