Matrix Monday: Challenges and Strategies of Matrix Organizations
Yes, we know it’s not a Monday, but we’ve had a small issue this week with our server. We had to weigh up making these articles findable by using a consistent title, publishing with a different name, or leaving it until next week to post. This close to the end of the year, we decided to go with publishing a little out of order. We hope that won’t spoil your enjoyment of this week’s summary of available literature on matrix organizations: Challenges and Strategies of Matrix organizations, by Dr Thomas Sy and Laura Sue D’Annunzio (Human Resource Planning 28.1, 2005)
This paper defines five key challenges of the contemporary matrix organizational form, and, following discussion of those, makes best practice suggestions for managers to help improve their matrix organizations. After gathering data based on surveys, workshops and interviews with 294 top-level and mid-level managers in multinational corporations in six industries, the authors identified the five challenges most likely to be present in a matrix structure as being: misaligned goals, unclear roles and responsibilities, ambiguous authority, a lack of a matrix guardian, and silo-focused employees. (You will find many of these topics discussed on the Global Integration blog.)
The article starts with a general overview of what comprises the matrix organization, outlining the strengths and weaknesses of a matrix structure, before going on to look more closely at each of the identified challenges. The authors then go on to confirm that the challenges faced by mid-level and top-level managers differ, for example, top-level managers more often report a higher frequency of misaligned goals, whereas mid-level managers tend to report that ambiguous roles and responsibilities is a challenge they more frequently encounter.
To conclude, while the research does admit its own strengths and weaknesses, it states that a problem for organizations is they are often fighting ‘complexity with complexity’. In order to win this battle, they must overcome the five identified challenges.
Further summaries of worthwhile literature on matrix organizations and matrix working can be found by following the Matrix Monday category on our blog. We welcome posts with summaries of other, relevant literature.
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