The Structure of Success

So many questions are encountered when trying to decide what role a manager should take when leading their segment. Should they be the one wit the most technical knowledge? Or is knowledge marginalized as long as they’re able to lead and motivate? Maybe they should have cross-occupational knowledge so that they know how their contributions affect the bottom line?

Many of these questions are answered by a organizations structure. Whether employees are grouped by occupation or distributed among teams can be a determining factor for many organizations. In modern business there are many different types of hierarchies and pyramids, however finding the right one to match one’s business can be difficult.

Modern businesses have found that innovation is hard to come by when employees are grouped together by occupation. A room full of accountants typically find it hard to talk about anything but budgets or profitability. This traditional set-up allowed its segment to be managed by someone who had technical knowledge in that occupation and in turn expect certain results. With this set-up, the staleness of the atmosphere became grounds for group-think and boredom.

On the other hand, separating employees not by occupation but rather by project or department allows a little more freedom and in turn, could encourage more feedback. This makes contribution more substantial and helps employees who might not  be able to contribute to the end-product(see line vs. staff) be able to have some influence. Some of the greatest ideas are not always generated by the most technically gifted engineer, but from someone who has no technical knowledge whatsoever.

In come the matrix organization, which aims to accomplish these feats where other structures have failed. By having employees report to a manager (technical expert) and a team manager (leader/motivator), it looks to get the best out of each employee by giving them access to contribute outside of their typical role.

However, there is a feeling that having one manager is enough, having two would be insufferable. Many matrix organizations have difficulty because of the many different levels of management and their muddled authority. Who’s authority ranks higher? The technical manager or the team leader? In essence, the intention of the matrix organization is admirable and important, creating a workplace that encourages exchange and discourages stereotyping.

But is there a more efficient way? Can the decisiveness of a strongly managed company, be combined with the inclusiveness of team leadership? Struggles have continued with companies trying to empower their staff and encourage innovation meanwhile resisting the bureaucracy and “wait-and-ask” approach that accompanies matrix-style organizations. Though it seems our generation has moved on from the rank-and-file structures that existed in the past, our desire to include everyone and anyone in could sully our abilities to make sound, quick and deliberate decisions.

Global Integration, Matrix Structure and Organization, Accessed on June 27, 2011. http://www.global-integration.com/what_we_do/matrix_organisation_structures.html

Cokringdale, Gill; Lost in Matrix Management, Accessed on June 27, 2011. http://blogs.hbr.org/corkindale/2008/06/lost_in_matrix_management.html

De Flander, Jeroen; 11 tips to survive Matrix Structures, Accessed on June 27, 2011. http://jeroen-de-flander.com/11-tips-to-survive-matrix-structures

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Comments
One Response to “The Structure of Success”
  1. Kevin Tran says:

    It is true that a matrix organization allows employees from different specialities to cooperate and pool their perspective and ideas to problem solve. Matrix organization does provide organizations that suffer from creativity, and such example is the government. So, how would you incorporate a matrix structure to a traditional structure? If so, would it benefit the general public?

    Thanks,

    Kevin

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