____________________________________________________________________ We typically see it as the leader’s responsibility to get the best out of his or her people – but how do organisational structures help or hinder performance? In the better, cheaper, faster world of the global economy anything that creates bottlenecks and slows up decision-making is an obstacle to success. In this respect hierarchical management and functional silos are bad news; what employers want to drive through instead are teams based around co-ordination, co-operation and flexibility. So how does matrix management help to deliver such an objective? The matrix model came from the recognition that companies not only have vertical chains of command but that people also work horizontally, across their functional specialisation. This network of interfaces is the matrix and has been seen as an ideal structure in which fast moving businesses can operate. In theory, the matrix allows managers to harness the services of employees irrespective of their function, to work collaboratively on key projects. On such projects the matrix manager can pool the necessary resource in order to achieve what, from the strategic objective, is the overriding priority.
It is a concept that, initially at least, has great appeal. It draws on the full potential of the HR resource. It slices through unwieldy lines of control. It frees up leadership in everyone concerned, not relying the few people who have positional power. However, there are inherent problems with the matrix structure. A single multi-disciplinary, or cross-functional team is one thing - but what happens when a number of these crossfunctional teams are working simultaneously requiring people to relate to one another vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, all at the same time? Once heralded as a great organisational breakthrough, the overriding concern about matrix management is how to make it work. It may be that matrix structures...
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