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7 Tips to Improve your Matrix Organization

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Organization Design Toolkit (103-slide PowerPoint presentation). Recent McKinsey research surveyed a large set of global executives and suggests that many companies, these days, are in a nearly permanent state of organizational flux. A rise in efforts in Organizational Design is attributed to the accelerating pace of structural change generated by market [read more]

Also, if you are interested in becoming an expert on Organizational Design (OD), take a look at Flevy's Organizational Design (OD) Frameworks offering here. This is a curated collection of best practice frameworks based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. By learning and applying these concepts, you can you stay ahead of the curve. Full details here.

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17072638696_f871731849_bYou find a matrix organization in most companies. Especially the bigger ones.

But putting a matrix structure to work can be quite a challenge.

Yes, matrix organizations have been around for quite some time. And they can be a smart choice to put your strategy to work.

But that doesn’t change the fact that most companies struggle to put their matrix organization to work properly.

“But isn’t there something that can be done about it?” you might ask yourself.

Matrix Organization: 7 Tips

Here are 7 tips to improve your matrix organization.

1. Want a matrix organization? Set a clear goal.

What would you like to achieve with the matrix structure?

A simple question, don’t you agree? But most CEOs fail to answer it.

Yes, most leaders would say things like “This matrix structure enhances our product innovation strategy” But that doesn’t cut it.  Remember:  a matrix organization only adds value when the goals are clearly defined.

Write down what you want to achieve with the matrix organization and get everyone’s buy in. Know what success looks like.

2. Manage politics and conflict early on.

Managing a matrix organization requires a focus on the people side. As most people will have a dual reporting line, conflict will be multiple. Don’t wait for them to explode. Tackle them early on. Show people political games are not tolerated.

3. Change the power balance when needed.

New business challenges demand new organizational structures. In a cost-cutting dynamic for example, it’s easier to get quick results if the geography – country or region – takes the lead in the organization as opposed to the product lines.

So don’t be afraid to shift the power balance. Take proactive measures.

4. Discuss the matrix organization with your management team.

Whether you are in a corporate role or in the field, whether you are high or low on the hierarchical ladder, whether you like it or not, your job, and those of your team members, are impacted by the matrix organizational structure.

Members of the same team will face the same organizational challenges so it’s worthwhile to put it on your agenda and acknowledge its importance. Put it on the execution agenda and take concrete actions to improve.

5. Steer projects together.

In a matrix organization, people tend to always refer to the other side of the matrix. This doesn’t help.  It’s smart to get people from difference organizational units together on crucial projects. Let’ them share the responsibility. It will help build the necessary trust. This will rub off to the day-to-day activities as well.

6. Remember, it takes time to build relationships.

You will probably agree that face-to-face interactions are better for creating good business relationships. Try to reduce the job changes in the head office.

In many organizations, people are already on the move again before the benefits of the newly built relationship kicks in. Don’t make this mistake.

Keep your key people in place until the matrix organizational structure is up and running for at least 1 year.

7. Matrix structures: learn to live with it!

A matrix structure can have enormous benefits for an organization as a whole but it won’t please all people all the time. And it doesn’t help to pretend it will.

“You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time,” said Bob Marley.

And they were right. So don’t try to hide the disadvantages of your organizational structure. Recognize them instead. Most people will see them anyway.

Communicate the pros and cons and teach people how to live within the new organizational structure. And make sure you add the following line into your communication: a matrix structure is not an excuse not to perform!

A matrix structure is not an excuse not to perform!

31-slide PowerPoint presentation
Organizational Design involves the creation of roles, processes, and structures to ensure that the organization's goals can be realized. Organizational Design span across various levels of the organization. This framework focuses on the following 3 initial steps of the full 10-step Organizational [read more]

Want to Achieve Excellence in Organizational Design (OD)?

Gain the knowledge and develop the expertise to become an expert in Organizational Design (OD). Our frameworks are based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. Click here for full details.

Organizational Design (AKA Organizational Re-design) involves the creation of roles, processes, and structures to ensure that the organization's goals can be realized. Organizational Design span across various levels of the organization. It includes:

1. The overall organizational "architecture" (e.g. decentralized vs. centralized model).

2. The design of business areas and business units within a larger organization.

3. The design of departments and other sub-units within a business unit.

4. The design of individual roles.

In the current Digital Age, there is an accelerating pace of strategic change driven by the disruption of industries. As a result, to remain competitive, Organizational Design efforts are becoming more frequent and pervasive—with the majority of organizations having experienced redesign within the past 3 years. This has only been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Frustratingly, only less than a quarter of these Organizational Design efforts are successful. Most organizations lack the best practice know-how to guide them through these Transformations effectively.

Learn about our Organizational Design (OD) Best Practice Frameworks here.

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Organizational Design (OD) is a structured approach to aligning the structure, processes, and systems of an organization to achieve its strategic objectives and enhance performance. It encompasses various components, including defining the purpose of reorganization, determining supportive [read more]

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About Jeroen De Flander

Jeroen De Flander is one of the world’s most influential thinkers on strategy execution and highly regarded keynote speaker. He’s the co-founder of the performance factory and chairman of the Institute for Strategy Execution and a highly regarded keynote speaker. He has shared the stage with prominent strategists like Michael Porter and reached out to 26,000+ leaders in 40+ countries. His first book Strategy Execution Heroes reached the Amazon bestseller list in 5 countries and was nominated for Management Book of the Year 2012 in the Netherlands. His second book, The Execution Shortcut, reached the #3 spot in its category on Amazon.

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