Monday, July 12, 2010

Making Matrixed Work

The matrixed style of management is becoming more and more popular in IT project and services nowadays. It would also seem that this style will continue to gain popularity in the future as well. However, like anything in this world, there are advantages and disadvantages to this style of management and there can be problems with this approach if the potential negatives are not handled correctly.

The matrixed style can basically be summarized as the selection of staff from a function or bench to perform tasks in a project which upon completion results in their returning to their function or bench to await subsequent deployment. The advantages of this are:

  • Much greater agility, especially when the organization has to handle multiple projects simultaneously

  • Individuals can be chosen according to the needs of the project

  • Greater individual contribution as the staff members of a matrixed environment have each been chosen for their specific skill set

  • Project managers have greater autonomy and control over the project management

The disadvantages of the matrixed environment are:

  • Conflict between the home department and the project for staff members

  • Difficulty in managing the project of the project manager does not have enough power

  • Staff morale is reduced due to stress of having to find another project to work on

The matrixed environment is attractive because the disadvantages can be managed leaving the organization to reap the benefits of the advantages. So what can be done to ensure that the matrixed environment can work? Some suggestions are:

  • Identifying team members and ensuring the proper line of command over them is established to disallow any chance of conflicting work assignments

  • Establishing effective communication channels. This is crucial because the staff members will be getting potentially conflicting information from their “home’ departments. Therefore, communication has to be extremely solid

  • Effective project information dissemination. The matrixed structure offers a higher potential of staff not getting the information that they should get regarding the project. This should be thought about and planned for right from the beginning

Of course much more information regarding the structure and management of matrixed organization exists and the interested reader can research this online. It is just a shame to me that a efficient way of doing things gets a bad name simply because of the simple avoidance of some the pitfalls.

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