Does the BBC need matrix management?

According to some of the press and radio commentary on the BBC crisis, one of the challenges is it’s history of divisional rivalries and a tendency towards ‘silo-based’ thinking and internal competition.

I don’t have any personal knowledge of the BBC organization structure, but these are typically amongst the most important reasons why organizations create a matrix structure.

The matrix is designed to cut across the traditional vertical silos of an organization (usually function and geography, but in the BBC’s case this could be radio, TV, etc.). The matrix creates horizontal structures that look across the business and ensure more joined up thinking: in the BBC this may be necessary to leverage digital content onto multiple delivery platforms.

But it also seems the BBC has some challenges of internal accountability and visibility. If these are already problems under a simple structure then the move to a matrix will make them even more challenging. These are not structural issues, however. These are skills and mindset issues that need to be addressed.

One objection to a matrix in the BBC that I would envisage would be the impact on creative program making. I guess none of us would want TV programs designed by committee and there needs to be space for innovation.

Normally when organizations go through kind of crisis that the BBC currently faces, the focus is on control. Too much central control can stifle innovation and creativity and so this balance of trust and control will be a critical challenge for the BBC going forward.

Our advice would be not to obsess too much on structure. With all the attention, it is unlikely that the BBC will escape without some kind of structural change. But the organization shouldn’t rely on this to make the deep-rooted behavioural changes. It is far more important to develop the skills and mindset of the people in the organization to make them think more broadly across the business.

We wish them every success.

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