As we have seen in other posts, a matrix organization structure does introduce (or recognize) a higher level of complexity and some distinct people management challenges, so why do organizations do it? There must be significant advantages to a matrix structure that outweigh the matrix people management challenges.
Matrix organization structures were introduced over 50 years to cope with the complex projects required in the aerospace industry. Since then many thousands of organizations, often prompted by the large strategy consultancies, have adopted the matrix structure to help deal with internal and external complexity.
At its simplest the matrix just recognizes complexity. Companies realize that geography is important but so is function, and so is customer grouping, product and technology. Instead of choosing a dominant organizing principle we choose to reflect all of these important strands in our structure, we have solid lines to product group and function, dotted lines to geography etc…
The structure, however, solves nothing. It is how people work together in the matrix that makes it succeed or fail – and often this is the neglected bit.
At a more detailed level the advantages that most organizations seek through using a matrix organization structure include:
- improved ability to access resources across the old functional and geographic silos.
- better coordination on shared technologies across the organization (such as IT).
- improves access to a diverse range of skills and perspectives.
- improved global or regional projects.
- increased communication and coordination across the business.
- reflects the needs of global or regional customers.
As we can see, most of these are about improving the way people work together and breaking down traditional barriers to cooperation.
The idea of the matrix structure is to enable faster response and adaptation to a complex world. The structure can deliver this, provided people have the skills to make the matrix work.
There are also some powerful advantages for individuals working a matrix, but that’s for another post.
Why did your organization introduce a matrix?