Using the link below, you can reach a summary of an article written by Numeros and Abrams in 2002. In its entirety, it makes fascinating reading.
Firstly, it traces the origins of the matrix organization structure even further back than we had previously found references to. The authors contend that its origins trace back to World War II, when the matrix was created to handle the complexity of defence sector projects on rapid turnaround ‘lead times. It’s the oldest reference we’ve found so far – and it seems credible. This would be the kind of situation where a well managed matrix would work well.
The heart of the article suggests three situations when it makes sense to employ a matrix way of working:
1. Response to the complexity of product and/or service.
2. Customer demands for integrated service.
3. Reducing costs.
And they then identify four main drawbacks:
1. A lack of clear expectations in middle management.
2. Power struggles: the inability to resolve them, and a mismatch between authority and accountability.
3. Management inability to communicate across groups.
4. A misalignment between accountability and reward.
So what do the authors suggest contribute to matrix success? They identify four factors:
1. Clear structure.
2. An appreciation of culture and mindset.
3. Employee skill set (what we’d call matrix working skills)
4. Accountability throughout the organization.
In summary, this article shares many of our own observations on the matrix organization and how to make it work.
Source: “Matrix management: recipe for chaos? By Rita E. Numerof and Michael N. Abrams. Directors & Boards (Gale Group) June 22, 2002.
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