What does moving toward matrix management require?

As has already been mentioned, the process of developing a matrix organizational structure in your company takes lots of time and effort in order to be efficient. The overall transition may take a couple of years and may pass through a number of intermediate stages. Different stages of transfer from a functional organization to a balanced matrix organization are known as various types of weak matrices.

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Generally speaking, different types of matrices can be distinguished by the level of authority that the project manager and the functional manager have. In a functional organization, the authority of a project manager is equal to zero, and a person who coordinates the project is not normally named a project manager at all. In a project organization, the authority of a project manager is almost absolute. In a balanced matrix organization, the authority of the functional and project managers is relatively equal, and this equity varies to one or the other side in the intermediate types of matrix.

When the organization is first starting to transition toward matrix management, it may employ a so-called project expediter who does not have much authority but whose major responsibility is to focus on the client and the final results of the project, and to put some pressure on the functional managers in the form of advice in order to make the project move in the necessary direction. Certainly, the authority of a project expeditor is much less than the authority of a functional manager and there are no people directly reporting to him.

If the project is of high importance to a company that has not yet moved to a classical matrix structure, the company's top management might raise the authority of a project expeditor by moving her to a level higher in the reporting hierarchy and making her directly responsible to the top managers. In this case, she is recognized as a project coordinator. Although such a change raises the level of a person's informal authority, her formal authority still stays very low and there still are very few people directly reporting to her.

As the organization moves on in its transition, it may start to get some members of a project team to report directly to the project manager and even be physically moved to a room where the project is taking place. Thus, we come to a balanced matrix where major players of a project team are now located at the project site while the rest of the members are still doing their project work in their functional departments under the supervision of their functional manager.

If we go further with this approach, we may come to a strong matrix where there are no people in the functional departments because the authority of project managers has become high enough to take them all away to the project site. That condition may also not be the best for the project because many people do not like being moved around a lot. Therefore, it is important to keep a balance and not allow either of the sides to take over. In fact, if you reach a situation where the functional and project managers of your company are working as partners in assigning people and coordinating and evaluating their work, you may consider yourself to be extremely lucky as a top manager.

Of course, the whole process of moving toward matrix management and then making it work assumes that a number of human factors are taken into consideration. In many cases, especially during the early days of trying to introduce matrix management into organizations, the changes did not actually take place because of the high level of reluctance on behalf of the middle managers. Indeed, being aware that they are going to lose half of their responsibilities to project managers and figuring out that this change in responsibilities may also affect the level of their salaries, these managers do every thing possible in order to keep this change from happening. In this situation, it becomes especially important for top management, which surely does not want to lose the functional managers, to slowly move them on to the higher positions and replace them with more administratively oriented managers. At the same time, the young project managers are given a chance to fulfill a number of projects within the company. By the time the functional managers are either replaced or moved higher, the project managers have enough experience and respect in the organization to start taking over more responsibilities.

It is also important that in a company carrying out matrix management, the project managers put enough effort into evaluation of their project team members and get this information to their functional managers. Other tools the project managers may use include responsibility- accountability matrices, staffing plans, organizational charts, and others we examined in Chapter 6.

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