As I mentioned two weeks ago, I have been reading The Power of the 2x2 Matrix by Alex Lowy and Phil Hood. The book is from 2004, but someone in my wide networks had mentioned it has containing some good thinking. I recommend reading the first two sections in detail and save the examples in Part 3 for reference material.
I really enjoyed the opening section that describes what 2x2 matrices are about and how to go about thinking through them. Sure there is great information on how to construct them, but I enjoyed the thinking that is involved. Just like many other problem-solving (problem-thinking?) areas, 2x2 matrices don't just appear. They come about through a thoughtful process of looking for the dilemmas and diving into the situation.
I kept reflecting back to the idea of the Evaporating Cloud from Theory of Constraints tools. There is a very similar methodology that builds out of understanding the situation to create the conflict cloud: what is the common goal? what are the needs? what is the resulting conflict? In some cases, I could see the conflict cloud being represented directly in the 2x2 matrix. The quadrants of the matrix could be the actions organizations partake in while they swing from one end of the conflict to the other. In other cases, the connection wasn't quite as obvious.
While the intro and discussion of the how and why of 2x2 matrices had me strongly engaged, the example matrices and discussion around them just didn't work for me. It felt like I was reading a catalog - and there is an extensive catalog of classic matrices in this book. I actually gave up on reading the details and skimmed most of them. Some of the dilemmas represented by the matrices didn't make sense to me - either because the context wasn't clear or the context has changed since the matrix was created.
I'd recommend the book for the first 100 pages. Keep the rest as reference material when you find yourself in a situation that appears to fit. And while a given matrix may fit, it always seems best to develop one yourself rather than picking a pre-built one. This is another similarity with Evaporating Clouds: there are some archetypal conflicts in the TOC literature, but the specifics for each organization are going to suggest creating Clouds unique to their situation.
[Photo: My own photo of "Sunset through the clouds in Houston"]