Matrix Organization

How an organization operates, identifies projects, and supplies resources to those projects can vary from company to company. Most organizations uses a matrix structure for running and staffing their many project engagements. Matrix management generally refers to an environment where resources may report to many managers…such as a direct supervisor and possibly several project managers.

The matrix environment

Matrix management involves coordinating, organizing and executing a sometimes complex web of relationships that come about when people join the project team and are subject to the resulting multiple authority-responsibility-accountability relationships in the organization. This type of organization is an attempt to take advantage of the benefits of a pure project organization while maintaining the advantages of the functional organization. It is rare to find pure-project or pure-functional organizations in business any more – the matrix organization usually makes the most sense in terms of efficient use of resources where 100% utilization and beyond is important to the bottom line of the company and each department. Matrix organizations are typical today, even when other project management tools aren’t involved.

In a matrix organization, a clear project team is established that crosses organizational boundaries. Thus, team members may come from various departments. A project manager for each project is clearly defined, and projects are managed as separate and focused activities through the use of web-based project management software. The project manager may report to a PMO Director (if a PMO exists), higher-level executive or to a delivery manager. However, the specific team members still report to their functional departments and maintain responsibilities for routine departmental work in their functional areas. In addition, people may be assigned to multiple project teams with different responsibilities. The problem of coordination that plagues other project structures is minimized because the most important personnel for a project work together as a defined team within the matrix project structure.
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The management responsibilities in these projects are often temporary – a supervisor on one project may be a worker on another project, depending on the skills required. If project managers in a matrix situation do not have good relationships with line managers in the organization, conflicts may arise over authority over employees’ work and priorities and it may become quite cumbersome trying to manage everything in the online project management software schedule. Because of this, the matrix environment is not necessarily a happy place for everyone.

The complexity that a matrix organization causes is clear: People have multiple managers, multiple priorities and multiple role identities. Because of these complexities, before an organization enters into matrix organizational structures, at least two of the following criteria for the project or the enterprise should be met:

  • Scarce or unique resources. A need to share scarce or unique resources that are required in more than one project or functional area. This can be tricky but most project management software scheduling tools can prove to be quite helpful.
  • High-end communication. A requirement for management to provide high levels of information processing and communication to complete the project.
  • Centralized project control. Pressure from the outside by customers or agencies to have one person or group centralize control of the project even though the project may be carried out by other groups in the organization.
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