Is the matrix organization here to stay?

Matrix MondayIn today’s Matrix Monday post (#MatrixMonday on Twitter) Global Integration director, John Bland, takes a look at an article from Administrative Science Quarterly.

When running training programmes on either ‘Leading  in a Matrix’ or ‘Managing in a Matrix’, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Is it here to stay?”.  This might also be expressed as “How do we know this isn’t the latest fad” or “Isn’t this just a transition and we’ll be doing something else in a few more years?”.

Many people in business have seen almost countless reorganizations and deeply sceptical of the consultants who come in to their organization to make changes.  So there is often a sort of resignation, and people feel that the best strategy is to keep your head down because this will be gone again after the next reorganization.

So is this true?  Will the matrix disappear only to be replaced by the next new improved management idea?

In my last Matrix Monday blog – The Move to Matrix Management – we partially answered this question.  There we saw that the matrix dates from at least the 1970’s – and possibly from before that.  So it has certainly been around a long time.

But do organizations abandon it?  Is it just a stream of new organizations trying it out before finding out it doesn’t work (which is another commonly held point of view)?

I found further evidence that the matrix organization is here to stay in another rather unusual place this week – from a study done on The Matrix in Hospitals.  It was published in Administrative Science Quarterly back in 1989, and the article summarizes an academic study of the matrix conducted by Lawton R Burns, then at the University of Arizona.

He studied matrix management in hospitals and his article covers many different aspects of matrix management. It is both interesting and informative in equal measure.

Interestingly he was able to study the matrix over a period of time, and he concludes (my bold):

Contrary to Kolodny’s (1979) assertion, there is no evidence that matrix organization is a transitional form.  Hospital Matrix programs are quite stable during the period of observation here.  Eighty percent of the programs operating in 1972 continued to operate in 1978.

So there you have it – proof that the matrix is here to stay within an organization, unless of course this article has been superseded by one I am not aware of – or you know differently?


Why not….?


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