Abb's Relays Business: Building and Managing a Global Matrix

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  • Topic: Debate
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  • Published : December 7, 2010
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Because this is a complex organization with sophisticated management practices, in MBA classrooms it may be necessary to spend some time in the early discussion ensuring that there is a clear understanding of the ABB’s matrix structure and the management roles and relationships in the relays business. In executive education programs, participants are more likely to have had experience in such subtle organization processes, and the instructor can move more quickly from the basic diagnosis to the more evaluative and reflective discussion. Executives will be interested to discuss issues like what makes this global matrix work when so many others have failed, and what value is being created in return for the substantial operating cost such organizations must bear. In order for both the diagnostic and normative learning needs to be met, I find that it is helpful to begin class not with an abstract discussion of ABB’s matrix organization but with a roleplay of how issues are being managed within it. Prior to beginning class, the instructor may want to nominate four strong students to take the role of Don Jans, Ulf Gundemark, Joe Baker and Göran Lindahl and ask them to think through how they would resolve the Comsys problem outlined at the end of the case. It is helpful to propose that Jans may want to bring this issue to his next company steering committee meeting, where he will have the opportunity to discuss it with Gundemark and Baker. In opening the class, the instructor may describe how ABB has created an organization that is widely admired but little understood. In an effort to get inside the matrix structure, the ABACUS system, and the complex management roles, we will explore how a single issue might be discussed and resolved within this organizational context. After introducing the role players, the instructor might then ask Don Jans: 1. At your next steering committee meeting with Baker and Gundemark, how are you going to deal with the Comsys issue that has...
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