Organizational Conflict

In the last MGT598 class, we discussed the various advantages and disadvantages of the different types of organizational structures and worked through related issues in the Moss and McAdams case study.  The company for which I work shifted from a functional hierarchy to a hybrid matrix within the last year, which concluded in a mixed reporting structure throughout the company.  Some teams remained grouped by functionality, some were grouped by client or project, and more still were subject to both.


I am a manager for a functional group that spans many of the clients, so I found myself facing a lot of the same issues from the case study such as stated in the textbook:

1)      Dysfunctional conflict – client managers would argue over whose work was the most difficult to obtain the best resource

2)      Limited technological expertise – when resources have to be assigned to each client instead of from a pool it becomes more difficult to balance varying levels of expertise

3)      Poor integration – finding resources to backup or replace those on vacation or sick leave is harder due to the lack of flexibility

In many instances I found that I had inherited the worst of both worlds without any of the advantages, combined with lower headcount following the recession there has not been any recruiting effort to replace or train to meet the changing needs of the clients.

Where should I start to address conflicts with the new reporting structure?

Previously I had established a backup structure which could be easily adjusted as all resources were in a pool under my control.  With the new structure, resources would have to be assigned on a dedicated basis.  I first performed interviews with the resources to create a job analysis document – hours, difficulty, and flexibility for the workload for each client.  I then created a skills document to reflect the levels of talent and experience and produced a skill gap analysis to present to the client managers.


Having the additional input of the managers was important, as there were many interpersonal factors I had not considered such as past grievances and other incompatibilities.  But above all it provided me substantial proof to get a consensus that an additional resource was needed to compensate for the loss of flexibility available for the change.  The documents I created allowed me to translate the skills and requirements into a requisition for a new hire and I was able to meet the clients’ needs.

But where were the organizational considerations?

It was clear that the decision to change the organizational structure was driven by a desire for control from the higher-ups, tired of splitting resources with other departments.  They sold the initiative on the basis that it provided better accountability and cost attribution, yet in reality they were scavenging the smaller clients to feed the needs of those they felt were more important.   The decision to make the change was made from the top down on an inconsistent basis, hinting at favoritism and lack of communication that would have been easily avoided by speaking directly with all team leaders.

In many ways I felt sympathy for Palmer from the case study, being a new manager and struggling against the demands of others.  Yet I was also in a position similar to Sands, having to appease multiple parties at the same time with the limited resources available.  I found the difference between us being my readiness to take action early on and willingness to commit – while compromises must be made, not everything must be compromised.

Innovation: A Gift that Doesn’t Come in a Box

In recent years, the siloed organizational structures common in traditional large corporations creating barriers between company functions are being broken down to foster a more innovative workplace. In the Wall Street Journal article “Together We Innovate,” the authors dispel the “Myth of the lone genius.” In essence, studies show that innovation does not come from one or even a small team of brilliant employees. The three problems that inhibit innovation are: lack of communication between functions, leaving decision-making to only a few company experts, and one-on-one contacts between collaborating partners.

Cross Collaboration

An overarching theme is that the divisions of employee expertise via a functional project organization prevent ideas from different perspectives at key points in the project timeline. The article mentions that by the time a new product idea gets to the marketing team, the concept is so developed that the marketers and teams further down the line cannot have any input. Although this may not seem to be big news to younger generations who highly value open networks and collaborative environments, these insights support a project manager’s decision to utilize a matrix organizational structure. Implementation of flat organizational structures has taken off in companies that highly value innovation and creativity. I have seen this in many ad and marketing agencies that have open desk space and a literal lack of physical barriers between offices and communication.

Open Mind

Leaving the big decisions up to only a few, albeit experts, in a particular project or organization can often throw the seeds of innovation into a desert of unrealistic ideas. Due to the knowledge of these decision-makers of what has proven successful, they often turn down out-of-the-box ideas providing vital opportunities for competitors. This lack of reception to new and risky ideas can stifle innovation in any organizational setting. From my experience, working in a team with limitations can be helpful, but working with a closed-minded decision maker or team leader keeps a lot of creativity and motivation for new ideas at bay.

Formal Network

Often times, companies rely on other organizations to produce innovative ideas. The networks created are likely informal and “eighty percent of the interactions between the company and academia were one-on-one.” It can be a project manager’s nightmare when one of these people leaves and the connection with that employee is lost.  A new relationship must be established with the partner organization. This style of communication is inefficient, very risky, and the result of poor management planning. I have seen this happen many times in student organizations at DePaul and know how frustrating this dilemma is and the strain it puts on what may have been an effective and innovative team.

To answer these three major problems, the article lists several solutions and applications. How would you solve these problems? Maybe you have had similar experiences in your workplace, working on a class project, or in an on-campus organization? How did you overcome these barriers to innovation?


Cross, Hargadon, et al. “Together We Innovate.” Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. 19 June 2012. Web. 11 May 2013.

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