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Managing in a Matrix Structure


Matrix management is somewhat different to the standard way of managing people and processes; however for a Project Manager, this is generally the only way of getting things done. Most projects operate in some kind of a matrix environment where resources to actually get the job done are acquired and released from other teams. In this fashion, the Project Manager is able to call upon the skills and excellence of staff throughout the organization to assist him in accomplishing his project, without having to build a huge and immense team internally.

What is Matrix Management?

Matrix Management is sometimes referred to as “dotted line” management and is fundamentally different to standard line management. With matrix management, you are responsible for some elements of that person’s role, but only in how it applies to your overall project. The day to day management of that employee including salary reviews, performance and so on, still remain the responsibility of their overall line manager.

Pluses and Minuses of Matrix Management

One of the biggest pluses of Matrix management is that you are not responsible for the tedious tasks of managing people and teams. Your responsibility is to the overall project and that person is simply a resource that you are utilizing to get the job done. However this comes with a downside – as you are not their day-to-day manager and do not have any overall influence on them from a managerial perspective, there are limits to what you can get them to do.

Pluses -

  • No need for line management tasks like pay reviews and disciplinary meetings.
  • Clearly defined objectives (project goals) are provided with a defined completion timetable
  • Your job description and focus is well defined, as is that of each of the team members
  • You are able to “poach” the best and most suitable resources from other parts of the company to accomplish your objectives versus having to make do with the staff in your team

Minuses -

  • Who do they listen to? Unless its very well defined, your new resource can be pulled in too many directions between the requirements of your role and the work they were doing for their manager.
  • Projects have a well defined timeline and due to these time constraints there are often issues with allowing staff to have time away from the job for personal development.
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