Our Matrix Monday series summarises some of the limited literature available on matrix organizations. Today we summarize Challenges and Strategies of Matrix organisations [sic]: by Dr Thomas Sy and Laura Sue D’Annunzio (Human Resource Planning 28.1, 2005).
This paper defines five key challenges of the contemporary matrix organizational form and, following discussion of those, makes best practice suggestions for managers to help improve their matrix organizations. After gathering data based on surveys, workshops and interviews with 294 top-level and mid-level managers in multinational corporations in six industries, the authors identified the five challenges most likely to be present in a matrix structure as being:
1. misaligned goals;
2. unclear roles and responsibilities;
3. ambiguous authority;
4. a lack of a matrix guardian;
5. silo-focused employees.
An overview of what comprises the matrix organization is offered at the start, outlining the strengths – and weaknesses – of a matrix structure, before going on to look more closely at each of the identified challenges. The authors then confirm that the challenges faced by mid-level and top-level managers differ. As an example, top-level managers more often report a higher frequency of misaligned goals, where mid-level managers tend to report that a challenge they more frequently encounter is ambiguous roles and responsibilities.
To conclude, while the research does admit its own strengths and weaknesses, it notes that organizations often fight ‘complexity with complexity’: in order to win this particular battle, they must overcome the five identified challenges.
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