Matrix Management

Matrix management at Yahoo

I came across a couple of posts about the matrix organization at Yahoo. They are pretty critical of the matrix there and mention symptoms including “a horrible gridlock in decision making”, lack of accountability, turnover of good people who felt they had not got the authority they needed and lack of accountability. Read the full post on Yahoo’s Matrix

The second post about Yahoo’s management structure speculates about a forthcoming organization change and talks approvingly of a return to more directive “take charge”, “top down” style of management.

Note these articles date from 2009.

My first observations that the symptoms they talk about are NOT inevitable in a matrix organization – if these symptoms are accurately reported they are symptoms of a badly implemented and run matrix where people do not seem to have the skills to manage the complexity. This is not uncommon but is not the fault of the structure itself.

Second I think we will see increasing calls for “strong” management during the downturn and I expect to see a return to higher levels of centralization. In a real emergency this may be a ratioal response. But in the medium to long term this will tend to negate most of the benefits of having a matrix and cause a return to silos of one kind or another.

Business today is too complex to operate within a simple top down structure – unless the boss is all seeing and all knowing and always right – a system that we are now criticising for bring down several of the major banks.

Wouldn’t it be better to make the matrix work by developing the skills and people capabilities and not just blaming the organization chart?

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