Don’t worry, I am not referring to Keanu Reeves and people in ankle length leather jackets and dark sunglasses. I am referring to a model of organisational design. Matrix management is a structure that uses specialist staff from different functional areas to work on projects or assignments being led by project managers.
Staff working in a matrix structure have two managers – their functional or line manager and their project manager. The functional manager maintains the line of authority over the day to day issues such as work allocation, performance, sign offs, etc while the project manager has authority over the issues related to the project.
The figure at the below is an example of a basic matrix structure. Across the top are the typical organisational Human Resource, finance Sales & Service and ICT. Down the left hand side are the various projects. Each project has a project leader and is staffed by a people from each of the functional areas. The functional reporting lines are in blue and the project reporting lines in orange.
Proponents of matrix management will tell you that it allows you get the right talent for the right job, it’s a better use of resources and generates greater effectiveness and efficiency.
Sure, it has its advantages, but you also need to be aware of its disadvantages. Whilst the Matrix looks great on paper, the biggest downfall of matrix management is the confusion it causes. Petty conflicts arise as peers with no authority over one another jostle for power. Managers often report they’re frustrated because they don’t know what their staff are working on. The dual line of command can cause issues, and this typically plays out as a conflict around resource allocation between the line or functional manager and the project manager.
Some of the skills required for matrix management include the following
- Living with ambiguity
- Living with competing priorities
- Working with multiple managers
- Influencing without authority
The trick with matrix management is to ensure that you provide clear role guidelines, encourage communication and transparency between line managers and project managers, and ensure your people are properly trained in the basics of matrix management
Click on the link below for more information about our Matrix Management program.