Matrix Management

Eight trends in matrix management – conclusions

Eight trends in matrix management – conclusions – hybrids and natural homes.

In this series of blog posts, we have looked at eight trends that will shape matrix organizations and matrix management in the future.

Our conclusions are that it seems likely that, in the future, large matrix organizations will see a continued growth in horizontal activity and higher levels of horizontal integration of business activities, processes and systems.

At the same time we have an enduring need for the capability development and functional work which rests within traditional vertical functions.

The organizational form that works for you will reflect the realities of your own organization and its history and aspirations. The structure that works for a legal firm or advertising agency is unlikely to be the same one that works for a pharmaceutical company or FMCG organization.

We should not expect uniform organizational forms but rather hybrid organizations with a mixture of types of structure.

We call our organization the ‘cake and candles’ model. The cake is made up of horizontal layers that cut right across the organization. These are our back-office functions like IT and finance, we try to make these as effective and common across the organization as we can. The candles are the vertical structures on the top. These are the things that our customers notice and they are organized around geography or customers.

VP Investment Banking UK

We refer to ourselves as a network organization. We have some people who are focusing on making sure we have enough software engineers and other skills. The rest of us focus on our ability to quickly put together networks and virtual organizations to deliver a specific project or customer needs. We try to keep the project part of our organization flexible as we never know what particular configuration of skills and capabilities will need for a particular activity or customer. A more formal structure would be unable to keep up with this complexity.

VP, Mobile Telephony, Germany

Some activities and tasks will continue to have ‘natural homes’. It is in the interest of the finance function to make sure there are sufficient qualified accountants moving through the organization and that long-term developmental focus is ideally suited to a functional structure.

Perhaps the matrix organization structure is a transitional form designed to wean us off and over-reliance on hierarchy and control and towards matrix management.  Maybe by working in a matrix we will start to realize that traditional forms of hierarchy and control are not very effective at delivering some of the fluid, fast changing horizontal activities that are necessary in today’s organizations.  The growth of social media may accelerate the matrix management trend by undermining traditional authority, control and information.

Irrespective of the form of organization structure you adopt, it is highly likely that ‘matrix working’, the ability to be effective in this complex, cross functional and fast changing world, will be essential.

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