Is matrix management to blame for problems at UK Customs & Excise?


When HMRC, a UK government department lost computer discs carrying the personal data of 25m people last year, the incident was blamed on mistakes by junior officials. But a report just published focuses its criticism not so much on individuals as on the “unsuitable organizational design” of HMRC.


The article mentions various criticisms


  • “[HMRC] is not suited to the so-called ‘constructive friction’ matrix type organization [that was] in place at the time of the data loss.”

  • “matrix management” led to lack of accountability, ownership of issues and clarity of vision.

  • “proliferation of committees” and “the complex management structure”.

  • A system of 37 business units created huge duplication, no common direction and no clear lines of accountability up to board level.

Read more at the financial times  website


So it seems HM Revenue & Customs experienced all the typical symptoms of a mismanaged matrix – (see our survey below left) I wonder if they got any training in how to operate the new system?


It isn’t the structure that makes the decisions and the mistakes – certainly not the one of losing data disks, it is the way people work together – is lack of security acceptable in any organizational form?


I also wonder how many of these symptoms existed before the merger and the more complex organization structure – the matrix makes a handy scapegoat when things go wrong.


Does your matrix structure get the blame when things go wrong, is it really the structure?

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: .

Contact us now to find out more or speak to one of our specialists