Modern Matrix

As organisations are faced by globalisation and increased competition, leaders can no longer ignore the negative effects that have originated from Taylorist or bureaucratic structures of the past. Burns and Stalker (1961) held that in dynamic economic sectors, those firms employing organics structures proved to be more effective comparative to those with mechanistic structures.  Employing a organic matrix structure, there is risk that the structure can become “a formless state of confusion where people do not recognize a "boss" to whom they feel responsible” (Davis & Lawrence, 1978, p.132), to overcome this, a corporate culture is based around trust and respect is required, and this is enabled through the use of the matrix structure, permitting the flexible use of human and material resources (Goldberg & Laslo, 2008), lending itself to the relative ease of expansion to other projects, developing cross-functional expertise whilst collaboration is additionally cultivated.

While the need for a multidimensional organisation able to respond to growing external complexity has been clearly recognised by organisations some years ago, most organisational objectives were defined in only the structural terms, and not executional or operational guidelines. Implementing the structure has not inferred the adaptation of changes in process or relationships between individuals or divisions.

This is evidenced by opposing business agendas between geographies, which are at times not complimentary and are executed in isolation, leading to some operational regions delivering on their objectives at the expense of others. Chan et al. (2009) found that balanced scorecard methodology a requisite, as objectives can be unrelated or even competing. By adopting a balanced scorecard and concurrently driving accountability it may lead to superior achievement against goals and measures.

 A macro view to the global business needs to be adopted to support a better coordinated global executional strategy would most likely result in a cumulative superior business outcome, even if some of the current individual regional or local levels are not reached in the short-term. This may better support the long-term local structure strategy. This is best supported with a clear communicated plan aligned across all managers and the scorecard to be set on regional objectives rather than local ones. To avoid ambiguity, expectations should clearly be defined in collaboration with both the solid and dotted line managers (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1990).

While tension within a matrix structure is anticipated, D'Annunzio and Sy (n.d.) in analysing large organisations found that employees tend to be silo-focused and view their loyalty toward their own direct sub-unit. Consequently, pockets of employees might behave in a manner beneficial towards their sub-unit but simultaneously to the detriment of the organisation at large. This behaviour is resulting in disengagement between global strategy implementation and local execution.

The sustainability of an organisation's structure will be largely dependant on comprehensive strategy execution and strong, unambiguous leadership that can respond to contingencies as they arise before they can adversely impact the structure.

[Grant Marais]


Bartlett, C.A. & Ghoshal, S., 1990. Matrix Management: Not a Structure, a Frame of Mind. Harvard Business Review, 68(4), pp.138-45.

Burns, T. & Stalker, G.M., 1961. The Management of Innovation. London: Tavistock.

Chan, E.H.W., Lam, P.T.I. & Wong, F.W.H., 2009. Optimising design objectives using the Balanced Scorecard approach. Design Studies, 30(4), pp.369-92.

D'Annunzio, L.S. & Sy, T., 2005. Challenges and Strategies of Matrix Organizations: Top-Level and Mid-Level Managers' Perspectives. Human resource planning, 28(1), pp.39-48.

Davis, S.M. & Lawrence, P.R., 1978. Problems of Matrix Organizations. Harvard Business Review, 56(3), pp.131-42.

Goldberg, A.I. & Laslo, Z.A., 2008. Resource allocation under uncertainty in a multi-project matrix environment: Is organizational conflict inevitable? International Journal of Project Management, 26(8), p.773–788.