Ostrich Management – Who needs a Matrix Anyway?

cartoon man with head in sandOstriches are famous for putting their heads in the sand when there is trouble. Well, ostriches do many things, but hiding their heads in the sand is not one of them it seems. This urban myth is attributable to Pliny the Elder who wrote of ostriches:

…they imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.

Historians believe that this single sentence is the root of this myth.

However, the English language, being rich and descriptive in metaphor, has embraced this idea, so someone who is ‘hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich’  is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish.

In our work over the past 20 years, we’ve come across some companies that claim they don’t have a Matrix (even though they seem to have one), and even some CEOs that have banned the use of the word!

Are they right – or are they engaging in Ostrich Management? And, by extension, do all companies need a Matrix? And if not, which companies really do need one?

The answer is simpler than you might think.

Small companies are simple to organise. People typically work within a function (for example “Sales”, “HR”, “Finance” etc.) and report to a functional leader. No matrix, no problem.

But then as companies grow – at first usually by expanding into different countries – organizational challenges start. If we now create an organization based on countries, then we’ll get duplication: the same people doing the same job in different countries. I.T. is a prime example – why would we need I.T. in each country? That’s inefficient, so the CEO will soon want to do something about it.

So we could chose to organise by function (I.T. Sales, Marketing, etc.), or by product instead. Indeed, a whole variety of other organizational solutions have been tried, but experience shows that whatever primary structure you create, you soon return to the same problems of duplication of effort, inefficiencies, and people not working or communicating outside of their ‘silo’.

At Global Integration, we firmly believe that “The Matrix” is actually just a way of working and that “The Matrix” simply expresses this need to work across the primary organization structure.

So the smaller and simpler your world, the less you’ll need a Matrix. By contrast the larger you are, the more essential it is – unless of course you want to be an Ostrich and ignore inefficiency, duplication and a lack of communication and co-operation.

Why not….?



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