Matrix management - American businessMatrix management is the use of a different MANAGEMENT structure for each type of work environment. It combines both functional and PRODUCT-organizational structures. In matrix management, an employee may report to several managers for different projects assigned to him or her. Because employees report to more than one manager, communications skills and interpersonal skills are extremely important. By pooling employees from different areas of the organization, the matrices combine diverse expertise, skills, and abilities. In a simple form, a matrix structure can look like the table below. In this matrix, it is the job of customer management to ensure that the individual customer’s needs are taken care of and that the customer receives the product; it is the product-management team’s responsibility to design, research and develop the product. This type of structure aligns a product manager with a business manager in the expectation that they will work together to ensure costeffectiveness, coordination, and productivity. In the 1960s, the U.S. Defense Department developed a project-management system requiring the coordination of components in the production of missile systems, in effect creating a matrix-management system. There is the potential for significant conflict in a matrix-management structure, because there are overlapping lines of responsibility and reporting among groups that have different goals. Senior managers will likely need to resolve conflicts among groups involved in the matrix. Because workers are organized in groups, it is difficult to distinguish and reward the efforts and accomplishments of individual employees. From an employee’s perspective, this can impede efforts to advance in the organization. When a matrix-management structure is first implemented, management and staff have to understand that, in there will be new role relationships and difficulty adjusting to the system. Ronald Gunn, in “Five Not-So-Easy Pieces of Matrix Management,” recommends five efforts needed when implementing matrix management.
1. Clarify roles and matrix principles and methods, both within and outside of the internal service unit.
2. Clarify cross-divisional priorities and implement a streamlined forum for priority setting and resource allocation.
3. Clarify internal, cross-divisional partnership agreements.
4. Improve the response capability of internal service personnel assigned to the matrix.
5. Smooth cultural transitions involved in moving to a matrix form.
Before implementing matrix management, a thorough analysis of the advantages and disadvantages should be conducted. On the positive side, matrix management can provide integrated activities, lowered costs by eliminating the duplication of key functional activities for each product line, diversity, and quicker completion of tasks. It can also help companies adapt rapidly to changing COMPETITION and address complex problems with a multiskilled team. On the negative side, matrix management can include communication problems and conflicts among team members.
See also ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR.