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Why do we have Matrix organisations?

April 28th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Management, Organization

This is a response to a LinkedIn question.  Forrest Christian suggested in a comment to another post that I post my responses here as well. Those of you are LinkedIn members can read the whole question and all other answers here .

My answer was:

No matter how a company is organized formally, for stuff to get done people need to communicate and work across boundaries. Researchers have done social network analysis in organizations and have seen that some bosses cannot handle this; they force everything to go through them, so of course they end up being bottlenecks. 

My belief is that matrix organizations were “invented” to address the non-cooperation between unit managers. But we still have a lot of turf wars and alpha-male behavior. We also see organizations apparently in endless committee meetings. 

My opinion is that matrix organizations were a “quick fix” to a larger and more deep-running problem. If we “solve” those problems we will not need matrix organizations. Managers needs to be selected ,trained and rewarded for abilities to: 

  • work with talented staff who do not need constant direction 
  • being able to work in collaboration and yet be held accountable 
  • that company results are more important than personal position

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Kevan Hall

    Hi Paul – I agree that this is often one objective. I also think managers assume that if they reflect the external complexity of customers, geography, product groups etc.. in the formal structure then this will somehow solve the problem.

    In reality the structure solves nothing, it is how people work together that makes everything work (or fail) in the matrix.

    See more at my blog http://www.lifeinamatrix.com

  • Ralf Lipold

    Hi Paul – thanks to linkedin I have stepped over your blog.

    A learning organization would be what we all would like to have where information is willing shared and flows to the points where it is needed for decisions.

    Unfortunately, today managers are leading organizations (not the owners as used to be at the beginning at last century) and they have their ownn agendas, that drive them to do the things they do. One of these is to establish their own “power silos” where their decisions are coming to reality whether they are good or bad for the organization (which often doesn’t count as much).

    Looking for further postings like such.

    Cheers,

    Ralf

  • jane modong

    hi there you are really right about matrix organisaton. ITs tre that man managers today believe that they have all the powers and therefore may even use them wronly which is a hinderance to an oranisation’s progress as intended.
    Chau