The matrix organization structure is blamed for a lot: unclear goals, conflict, bureaucracy and many others. But is often the case that these problems were there in the organization before the matrix.
Competing goals, for example, are normal in any organization that doesn’t have unlimited resources. A complete lack of conflict would probably indicate that people lack passion and commitment.
However, because matrix management overturns unity of command and control – that is, it introduces multiple bosses – then these inefficiencies are thrown into stark context. They are also harder to hide as there are more stakeholders involved.
So maybe instead of being the cause of these problems, introducing a matrix organization might help us solve them by making them more visible.
It’s a bit like the role of inventory in lean manufacturing. Reducing inventory is like reducing the level of water in the river, it allows us to see the rocks underneath and to identify the real inefficiencies in our processes. Only once we’ve identified the bottlenecks, turbulence and impediments can we really improve our process.
The matrix requires higher levels of alignment, collaboration and trust. If an organization lacks these, it’s unlikely to be caused by the structure that’s the problem. It’s more likely to be about the underlying way of working that exists in the organization.
The matrix will make these issues more visible and will provide a framework in which they can be resolved, but the reporting lines will do the work for you. As always, the devil is in the details and we need to be clear about how we want these issues to be resolved.
In the past solutions may have defaulted up the hierarchy and been taken on a functional basis. In matrix management the horizontal becomes as important as the vertical and this should lead us to take decisions that allow us to optimize the whole business rather than just a function, or geography.
If you need help working out how to make your matrix work, why not give us a call? You can also get in touch using the handy form at the right of this page (on most devices).
(Kevan Hall’s book, Making the Matrix Work, is now available on Amazon.)