How a matrix structure trades clarity for flexibility

In the previous post we looked at how matrix organization structures were introduced to increase flexibility in the way we access resources and persuade people to work together.

In order to get increased flexibility we give up some of the clarity and certainty that came from single unified reporting relationships. It is important to realize that this is a deliberate trade-off of the matrix – not a temporary problem to be managed away.

If you could reduce this complexity and restore clarity you would not need a matrix structure.

The reduction in clarity however is not evenly distributed.


Matrix goal clarity curve

Clarity at the very top of the organization and at more junior levels can and should be preserved.

If you are at the top, the matrix makes little difference –  everyone still works for you.

At more junior level we should try to insulate people from the additional complexity of the matrix structure – only use a matrix if it really adds value – and it usually does not add value to the vast majority of people with purely local jobs.

It is the people in the middle – the matrix middle – that need to be able to cope with higher levels of change and ambiguity – see the posts in the categories on alignment and matrix management skills for more on this.

Any ideas on how to improve flexibility without losing clarity?

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