Matrix management

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A matrix organization

Strictly speaking, matrix management, which was "introduced in the 1970s in the context of competition"[1][2] is the practice of managing individuals with more than one reporting line (in a matrix organization structure), but it is also commonly used to describe managing cross functional, cross business group and other forms of working that cross the traditional vertical business units – often silos – of function and geography.

What is it?[edit]

It is a type of organizational structure in which people with similar skills are pooled for work assignments, resulting in more than one manager (sometimes referred to as solid line and dotted line reports, in reference to traditional business organization charts).

Matrix Management can also be a reference to be a command-and-control structure in which some of the employees have a twofold of responsibilities and bosses. These employees do report to one boss (a project manager for example) for the day to day performances, and then to another boss (department head for example) for practical responsibilities. When it comes to the methods of uses MatrixManagement It has the best requirement for situations that can vary from workloads. An example of this would be managing large collaborative or product development tasks. See also Matrix Organization

For example, all engineers may be in one engineering department and report to an engineering manager, but these same engineers may be assigned to different projects and report to a different engineering manager or a project manager while working on that project.[3][4] Therefore, each engineer may have to work under several managers to get his or her job done.

The matrix for project management[edit]

A lot of the early literature on the matrix comes from the field of cross functional project management where matrices are described as strong, medium or weak depending on the level of power of the project manager.

While some form of matrix management has become fairly common in certain industries, particularly among companies that have multiple business units and international operations, upon closer inspection, different organizations implement a matrix structure in different ways to support their needs.[5]

Some organizations fall somewhere between the fully functional and the pure matrix. These organizations are defined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge[6] as ’composite’. For example, even a fundamentally functional organization may create a special project team to handle a critical project.

The traditional organisation has some functions that may have names such as design, development, manufacturing, finance, HR, marketing, sales, customer service, etc. The common factor of these functions is that they are bounded, contain specialists and are managed by people who have a specialist outlook. They are a linear hierarchy that, no matter how modern the management thinking is, is fundamentally command and control - now socially modernised. Matrix management cannot be command and control. Today the most successful companies are those where top executives recognise the need to manage the new environmental and competitive demands by focusing on developing the abilities, behaviour and performance of individual managers.The organisation will need leaders and that requires interpersonal communication. Change succeeds only when those assigned to the new trans-functional and interdependent tasks understand the overall goals and are dedicated to achieving them.

Management advantages and disadvantages[edit]

Key advantages that organizations seek when introducing a matrix include:

  • To break business information silos - to increase cooperation and communication across the traditional silos and unlock resources and talent that are currently inaccessible to the rest of the organization.
  • To deliver work across the business more effectively – to serve global customers, manage supply chains that extend outside the organization, and run integrated business regions, functions and processes.
  • To be able to respond more flexibly – to reflect the importance of both the global and the local, the business and the function in the structure, and to respond quickly to changes in markets and priorities.
  • To develop broader people capabilities – a matrix helps develop individuals with broader perspectives and skills who can deliver value across the business and manage in a more complex and interconnected environment.

Key disadvantages of matrix organizations include:

  • Mid-level management having multiple supervisors can be confusing, in that competing agendas and emphases can pull employees in different directions, which can lower productivity.
  • Mid-level management can become frustrated with what appears to be a lack of clarity with priorities.
  • Mid-level management can become over-burdened with the diffusion of priorities.
  • Supervisory management can find it more difficult to achieve results within their area of expertise with subordinate staff being pulled in different directions.

Advantages and disadvantages in a project management situation[edit]

The advantages of a matrix for project management can include:

  • Individuals can be chosen according to the needs of the project.
  • The use of a project team that is dynamic and able to view problems in a different way as specialists have been brought together in a new environment.
  • Project managers are directly responsible for completing the project within a specific deadline and budget.

The disadvantages for project management can include:

  • A conflict of loyalty between line managers and project managers over the allocation of resources.
  • Projects can be difficult to monitor if teams have a lot of independence.
  • Costs can be increased if more managers (i.e. project managers) are created through the use of project teams.
  • Organizational efficiencies are very difficult to identify because benchmarking headcount against revenue (or output) is not possible due to the scattered nature of the supporting functions

In popular culture[edit]

Matrix Management in Practice[edit]

Examples of using Matrix Management:

  • Digital Equipment Corporation founder Ken Olsen spawned and popularized Matrix Management.[8][9][10]
  • ABB Group, formed from a 1988 merger and followed by "an ambitious acquisition program." Guiding this was a corporate structure whereby "local operations were organized within the framework of a two-dimensional matrix."[11]

As for why the term is not publicly and formally affiliated with large numbers of corporations, a 2007 book about how "matrix management made a big splash in the 1970s" said that, "for the most part... companies using matrix structures tend to keep quiet about it."[2]

Current Thinking on Matrix Management[edit]

In 1990 Christopher A. Bartlett and Sumantra Ghoshal writing on matrix management in the Harvard Business Review,[12] quoted a line manager saying “The challenge is not so much to build a matrix structure as it is to create a matrix in the minds of our managers”. Despite this, most academic work has focused on structure, where most practitioners seem to struggle with the skills and behaviours needed to make matrix management a success. Most of the disadvantages are about the way people work together, not the structure.

In “Designing Matrix Organizations That Actually Work” Jay R. Galbraith[13] says “Organization structures do not fail, but management fails at implementing them successfully.” He argues that strategy, structure, processes, rewards and people all need to be aligned in a successful matrix implementation.

In “Making the Matrix Work: How Matrix Managers Engage People and Cut through Complexity”, Kevan Hall[14] identifies a number of specific matrix management challenges in an environment where accountability without control, and influence without authority, become the normal way of working:

  • Context - matrix managers need to make sure that people understand the reasoning behind matrix working and change their behaviours accordingly
  • Cooperation - a matrix is intended to improve cooperation across the silos, but it can easily lead to an increase in bureaucracy, more meetings and slower decisions where too many people are involved.
  • Control - In a matrix managers are often dependent on strangers where they don't have direct control. There are many factors that can undermine trust such as cross cultural differences and communicating through technology and when trust is undermined managers often increase control. Centralization can make the matrix slow and expensive to run with high levels of escalation. Matrix managers need to directly build trust in distributed and diverse teams and to empower people, even though they may rarely get face-to-face.
  • Community – the formal structure becomes less important to getting things done in a matrix so managers need to focus on the "soft structure" of networks, communities, teams and groups that need to be set up and maintained to get things done.

Paula K. Martin, in her books The Matrix Management 2.0 Body of Knowledge[15] and Matrix Management Reinvented – The New Game in Town,[16] introduced the concept of Matrix Management 2.0, an organizational operating System that focuses on running a matrix organization from two dimensions – the horizontal and the vertical.

MM 2.0 is defined in Matrix Management Reinvented – The New Game in Town as “A management operating system specifically designed to make a matrix organization function effectively and efficiently.”[16] This new system updates other organizational operating systems such as Vertical Management 1.0 which is a one-dimensional, authority based system invented in the 1950s, and the Matrix Management (1.0) system that is focused on creating a specific matrix structure and authority based relationships with dual-reporting or dotted-line relationships on an Org Chart.[16]

Matrix Management 2.0 is based on a new set of assumptions that change how we look at the organization as a system and matrix leadership.

MM 2.0 Organizational Assumptions, as defined in Matrix Management Reinvented – The New Game in Town:[16]

  • An organization is a system; therefore, the parts (areas and people) are interdependent
  • The whole is equal to the product of the interaction of the parts
  • Optimization of an organization is best accomplished using cooperation
  • Team performance is what is important

MM 2.0 Leadership Assumptions, as defined in Matrix Management Reinvented – The New Game in Town:[16]

  • Leaders do not need authority in order to lead and be accountable

The MM 2.0 system is broken up into five SPARC Keys that cover the different aspects organizations address when they apply matrix management – Structure, Productivity, Accountability, Relationship Management and Collaborative Leadership. With MM 2.0, each Key follows the premises and principles based upon the new assumptions.[16]

SPARC Keys, as defined in Matrix Management Reinvented – The New Game in Town:[16]

  • S Key – Horizontal & vertical structure
  • P Key – Productivity of the team & organization
  • A Key – Proactive and commitment-focused accountability system
  • R Key – Management of non-authority horizontal relationships
  • C Key – Collaborative leadership without authority

Visual representation[edit]

Representing matrix organizations visually has challenged managers ever since the matrix management structure was invented. Most organizations use dotted lines to represent secondary relationships between people, and charting software such as Visio and OrgPlus supports this approach. Until recently, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and human resource management systems (HRMS) software did not support matrix reporting. Late releases of SAP software support matrix reporting, and Oracle eBusiness Suite can also be customized to store matrix information.


Matrix management should not be confused with "tight matrix". Tight matrix, or co-location, refers to locating offices for a project team in the same room, regardless of management structure.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ from Japanese companies
  2. ^ a b Marvin R. Gottlieb (2007). The Matrix Organization Reloaded: Adventures in Team and Project Management. ISBN 0275991334.
  3. ^ Tara Duggan. "Successful Organizational Structure".
  4. ^ "employees report to more than one manager... combines both functional and divisional structures."
  6. ^ Seet, Daniel. "Power: The Functional Manager’s Meat and Project Manager’s Poison?", PM Hut, February 6, 2009. Retrieved on March 2, 2010.
  7. ^ "9 Ways Great Companies Organize Their Teams For Success".
  8. ^ "early use of matrix management"Edgar H. Schein (2010). DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equiment Corporation. ISBN 1458777677.
  9. ^ gives MM components without using the term itself.Win Hindle, DEC sr. VP (2008). "Ken's Leadership".
  10. ^ Glenn Rifkin. The Ultimate Entrepreneur: The Story of Ken Olsen and Digital Equipment Corporation.
  11. ^ Kettinger, William J.; Marchand, Donald A. (February 2002). "Leveraging Information Locally and Globally: The Right Mix of Flexibility and Standardization" (PDF).
  12. ^ Matrix management: not a structure, a frame of mind. Barlett CA, Ghoshal S, Harvard Business Review [1990, 68(4):138-145]
  13. ^ Galbraith, J.R. (1971). "Matrix Organization Designs: How to combine functional and project forms". In: Business Horizons, February 1971, 29-40.
  14. ^ “Making the Matrix Work: How Matrix Managers Engage People and Cut Through Complexity”, by Kevan Hall ISBN 1904838421 | ISBN 978-1904838425 |
  15. ^ Martin, Paula (2013). Matrix Management 2.0™ Body of Knowledge (1 ed.). International Matrix Management Institute. p. 236. ISBN 0988334208.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Martin, Paula (2015). Matrix Management Reinvented: Book 1 - The New Game in Town (1 ed.). International Matrix Management Institute. p. 97. ISBN 0988334216.