Towards Matrix Mastery

masterEssentials and Building Blocks

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The Matrix is Everywhere

Matrix organizational structures first became popular in the 1960s aerospace industry. Organizing people around projects, rather than into pyramids, was seen as a way to improve efficiency and productivity in complex ventures. Since then, matrix organizations have become widespread in commercial industry and even the nonprofit sector, to varying degrees of success. Nowadays, many companies that never use the word ‘matrix’ are structured around numerous informal matrices and matrixed teams.

A new book by Susan Z. Finerty, Master the Matrix: 7 Essentials for Getting Things Done in Complex Organizations, aims to arm people in what she calls “matrix roles” with a new set of tools to tackle the unique set of problems they encounter regularly in their organizations.

Finerty outlines four types of matrix roles. The formal project matrix is comprised of a project management office structure combined with a functional or business reporting structure. The cross‐functional team matrix brings in multiple disciplines/departments to address specific and often short‐term projects or issues. The reporting relationship matrix is most often seen as an outgrowth of globalization—it involves reporting to multiple bosses across functions, businesses or geographies. The customer hub matrix involves teams dedicated to meeting internal or external customer needs across a product line or business with a center of the hub coordinating resources.

The complexity of organizational webs has grown rapidly, but most people working within a matrix, if they are even aware that they are in one, have little guidance on how to navigate it. A matrix represents a departure from the hierarchical structure of traditional organizations. But for the most part, when problems arise in matrix organizations, “traditional” solutions are the only tools applied to solve them.


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