At Global Integration, we believe there is an enduring need for some form of functional organization within a matrix organization structure. We don’t see any significant alternative at present to a functional focus for building capability and skills, particularly in areas where professional qualifications or deep skills are required  such as ensuring there are sufficient trained HR people or engineers in the organisation for the future.

A significant number of people also see their careers in functional terms and until horizontal structures can offer similar career development opportunities this is likely to drive the continuing focus on functions.

When you said at our conference that you saw a strong role for functions in the future, I was initially horrified. We have spent the last two years trying to break the power of the functions in favour of a shared process way of working. I guess I was expecting that this trend would continue, but the matrix is all about balance so I shouldn’t be surprised that we need both. Organization Design Consultant, Agrichemicals, Canada

This may change if and when the ‘basket’ of skills and capabilities that are necessary to success are driven more strongly by horizontal working needs than by functional and professional skills – for example if overall ‘supply chain’ skills and careers become more important than the skills and careers of professional purchasing, logistics and manufacturing management that fall within that supply chain.

However, the specific needs of each of the different functions may drive a different shape of matrix within them. There is no logical reason why the organizational form of a function like finance should be the same as the form of functions like R&D or sales.

This may make our organization charts look messier but may provide better structures for delivering functional capability and workload.

In our next series of blogs, we will look at the different flavour and balance of matrix management that we see in different functions lie R&D, HR and Finance.

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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