Matrix management in a startup is actually extremely common. This is more or less because in many early stage startups, many people are doing many things that a more stable and mature company would likely have different dedicated people to do things. If you tried to map relationships of who reports to whom, in which role they play, I would be willing to make a bet that your relationship map would look less like an organizational tree, and more like a pasta bowl!
In my work with different sized firms, I ran accross someone by the name of Kim Scott who said something that really resonated with me:
For a minute, I thought, this is where the a-holes really have the advantage. But that's not right either. Good managers give a damn.
Management is something that eveyrone needs, no matter how well founded and independent you are. And here is a secret: management is a very personal thing. It's one person building a relationship and exchanging services with another person.
THe trick is, recognizing what the management constructs your startup has actually are.
- Does anyone have a manager?
WHat makes you different? Why do they have one? How does thier job differ from yours? Are you more senior? How is your relationship with the people generally more senior than you?
- How do you get work direction?
Who does it? Do they also coach you or does that come from someone else? Does anyone coach you on how to connect with the company? Management really is about more than just how to do your job, its also about how you fit and helping you be a part of something bigger than you or me.
- Do you trust someone enough to approach them about this issue?
Measure your approach. Explain you would like to be better and do more for them. It's not about what I want and what I have and what I need. Its about "the startup needs awesome, and I want to be more awesome to help the startup be awesome. Gee, [person I trust], would you mind sharing how you see this in your area? How do you deal with the ambiguity? [And if you really do have a strong relationship, maybe even Would you mind coaching me.]"
- Even if you cant get a formal manager, build a relationship with that trusted person and maybe get an Advisor.
Getting feedback is critical. Getting tied into the company is also very important. Finding new ways to connect and integrate, to manage work, and to grow as hopefully the startup goes through the growing pains of more money and customers, will be an essential part of how you survive the VC cycles and hopefully make money on all of this work.
Oh... and read some of the other startup management lessons from Kim over on First Round.