you think The Matrix
was mind-bending, check out matrix management for an organizational structure
that also bends. That is, bends reporting lines. Matrix management is a type of organizational
management style where people from different departments are pooled to work on
a project. Simply put, matrix management
creates a system where employees are reporting to more than one person.
are examples of three different projects.
Morpheus is in charge of the first one, Niobe the second, and Neo the
third. They are our three “project managers” and they manage each project for
its temporary duration (which can be short as in days, or long as in years).
let’s imagine that you are Neo. On
Project Left, you report to Morpheus, on Project Middle, you report to Niobe
and on Project Right, you are in charge and have others reporting to you,
including Niobe, in a role reversal compared to Project Middle. (Please refer
to the figure below)
if that weren’t complicated enough, don’t forget about the hierarchy within the
company (which is not shown in the graphic).
Let’s say that Trinity is Neo’s supervisor (or mentor) within the
company. For example, she might be the
Director of Technology and Neo is in her department. On one project, he works with her as a
colleague (Morpheus’ Project Left) but on Project Right, Trinity reports to
him. Yet, in their permanent
relationship within the company, Neo is on Trinity’s team.
I think you can see right away what the disadvantages are: role ambiguity can
easily occur because Neo isn’t always clear to whom he should report, not to
mention the difficulty of learning how to be a project manager with staff that
includes his official boss! Also, decisions can take a long time if more than
one project manager, supervisor, or mentor needs to be consulted to move
there are also some advantages to matrix management. It allows for more information exchange
between employees because there are lots of connections. This is often a more efficient use of
resources (employees) because there is no “down time” for the employee to wait
for another task since s/he is assigned to several projects at once. And each particular project gets staffed with
employees who are best suited for the job (i.e. each employee brings their
specialized knowledge to the project), which also allows the employees to
increase their depth of knowledge.
This type of organizational management can take
a bit of getting used to, but it can also be quite effective, and is the
organizational structure of choice for many firms that specialize in project
management. My personal favorite thing
about matrix management is that it allows you to regularly work on new projects
(and helps avoid boredom on the job).
Now, if only I could just figure out how it could help with spoon