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.


Educate yourself further with a few more or our online insights:

30 years of experience learning with a range of world class clients

We work with a wide range of clients from global multinationals to recent start-ups. Our audiences span all levels, from CEOs to operational teams around the world.  Our tools and programs have been developed for diverse and demanding audiences.

View more of our clients
Two woman talking with a cup of coffee

Tailored training or off the shelf modules for your people development needs

We are deep content experts in remote, virtual and hybrid working, matrix management and agile & digital leadership. We are highly flexible in how we deliver our content and ideas. We can tailor content closely to your specific needs or deliver off the shelf bite sized modules based on our existing IP and 30 years of training experience.

For more about how we deliver our keynotes, workshops, live web seminars and online learning.

Discover our training solutions