The matrix organization is a relatively new concept when it comes to an organizations structure. A matrix organization is a hybrid between a project management structure and a functional hierarchy (Larson & Gray 74). The exhibit below shows different types of matrix organizations.
As a defense contractor, my company is most closely aligned with the project matrix (also known as a strong matrix). Whereas I understand the benefits of the matrix organization (promotes higher efficiency, creates cross-functional relationships, etc.), I find that many of my daily frustrations stem from this type of organization. I often feel that I have too many bosses, and sometimes they seem to be blissfully unaware that I have responsibilities on other projects and/or for other managers. Communication is another issue because I either receive the same e-mail from five different people, or I do not get communicated with at all. There have been many instances where a coworker has received a piece of vital information from one of their project managers, and I hear nothing because my project manager thinks the information should have come from my finance manager.
So now that I have identified all these challenges, here are some suggestions to follow in order for the matrix organization to work successfully:
Define your role and each manager’s role
Talk with the functional manager about what is expected from you and what he/she thinks your role is within a project team. Additionally, each project manager has different expectations, so speak with him/her at the beginning of the project. An open dialogue about what is expected from you as a team member and him/her as the manager can be very beneficial. Work out any ambiguous areas right away.
Communication is key! Keep multiple managers in the loop about your work load and your deadlines either in a formal status report or informally during staff meetings. Ask that you be included on the distribution list for vital communications. If any issues arise, communicate them as soon as possible. Project managers should also make sure that they have a regular form of communication with each of their team members.
Lastly, take advantage of the matrix organization. It provides employees with the opportunity to make connections with other employees in different functional organizations. Project managers should encourage an open team atmosphere. As a team member you can learn about different areas in the company that interest you as well. Who knows, you may find a new area of interest!
What type of organization does your company utilize? Do you think it is the proper organization for how your company operates?
What are some of your personal experiences (good or bad) with the matrix structure?
Larson, E. W., & Gray, C. F. (2014). Project Management: The Managerial Process (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.