Continuing our blog series looking at reasons to introduce a matrix. Improved cooperation and communication across the old functional and geographic silos.

The second major reason that organizations introduce a matrix is the work.  Vertical functions and countries  don’t fit the needs of today’s work patterns:

  • – supply chains operate worldwide
  • – functional organizations need to be coordinated
  • – common systems and processes cut across business units, functions and geography
  • – global customers demand a single point of contact

“The old IBC organization served us well at one time. But, it also resulted in duplicate work among organizations, too many layers for quick and effective decision-making and unnecessary complexity. Our new matrix organization will focus IBC more clearly on our customers and on improving product quality, enhancing service-to-sales and lowering costs. It will result in improved communication, better planning and an increased focus on results.”

CEO Craig Jung, Interstate Bakeries 2007

Traditional vertical silos are very powerful in most organizations. Career structures, objective setting, reward, recognition and line management power were all used to increase the focus on the vertical. It’s not surprising that people learned to give priority to the goals and perspectives inside their own silo.

Functional cultures can also increase complexity.  In some of our cross-cultural work at Global Integration, we find that the differences between functional cultures can be greater than the differences between national cultures at work in Europe. It is sometimes easier to get salespeople working together across a region than to get salespeople and finance people to work together within a country.

A matrix structure makes it routine to work across functional and geographic silos. At its best, it creates an environment in which high levels of cooperation can emerge.

However, as we will see later, be careful what you wish for – many matrix implementations experience very high levels of low value cooperation and communication. This is one of the key challenges that need addressing in matrix working.

If you’re interested in delving further, you may also enjoy:

Life in a Matrix Podcast: A lack of communication? You must be joking

One day Matrix Organization workshop: Ashridge Business School, UK, June 2012

Blog posts: Matrix Organization, 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: .

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