Strong Matrix

In a strong matrix organization the project manager has greater authority or power than the functional manager. In this situation, project managers generally get the people they want. In fact the project managers in this type of organization get more than they should. A manager who is assertive will usually get the personnel he or she wants. The functional manager is not able to overcome the project manager's authority and is not free to assign people where their talent is best utilized.

If this type of organization becomes stronger, most if not all of the personnel will be working on projects, and project managers will be able to draw more highly qualified people than are really needed for their projects. The surplus personnel are traded between the project managers themselves, bypassing the functional managers altogether. In this type of organization the project manager has strong authority.

Weak Matrix

In the weak matrix organization, the project manager does not have as much power as the functional manager. This usually occurs in organizations that are moving into matrix management for the first time. The situation occurs something like this: The company's chief executive officer (CEO) decides that matrix management is the thing for the company to do. Almost overnight an attempt is made to change the organization from a functional organization to a matrix management.

When this happens, there is a reaction from the functional managers. After all, these are the major human assets in the company. They would not be in a position of authority if they were not good managers.

The functional managers see the problem in the new organization. In the past, they had responsibility for the administration as well as the directing of work in their part of the organization. Under matrix management they no longer direct some of the work that their people are doing. The fact that project managers will direct that work is a threat to the functional managers. The salary that the company is going to pay the project managers is going to come from someplace. Most likely it is going to come from cuts in functional managers' salary. The functional managers react by convincing the upper management of the company to allow the project managers only to recommend work to be done, and to let the functional managers continue to actually direct the work.

This form of matrix management can be used if there is a transition going on. In the beginning of the transition to matrix management, the project managers are new and inexperienced. As they gain experience, they should be given more authority over the people who report to them. At the same time, the functional managers can be transitioned out of the organization and promoted into higher and more responsible jobs. As the functional managers move on, more appropriate administrative managers can replace them, and direction of the work can be managed by the project manager.

Balanced Matrix

In the balanced matrix organization, the power levels of the functional manager and the project manager are in balance. By that I mean that the functional manager cannot force the project manager, and the project manager cannot force the functional manager. The functional manager makes the decisions about where the people in his or her department will be assigned, and the project manager works with the functional manager to recruit the proper person for the project assignment.

A balancing rule can be applied. By setting a specific interval of time as a requirement for moving a person to the project team, balance can be achieved. For example, a person who is required to work full time on a project for two months is transferred to the project, while persons who are required to work less than two months remain in their functional department, and under the supervision of the functional manager. Persons working longer than two months would be physically moved to the project space and would return to the functional area when the work is completed. The project manager authorizes any work to be done in the functional area by generating a work order or some other device.

By adjusting the balance point, more or less work can be made to happen in the functional areas. If more work is being handled on the project, the project manager has more people reporting to him or her, increasing the project manager's power level. At one extreme we have a strong matrix, where the length of time required to move a person to the project team is very short. At the other extreme we have a weak matrix, where the length of time required to move a person to the project team is very long.

Making Matrix Management Work

Matrix management is not without its problems. The organization is quite complex in comparison to the functional or pure project types of organization. Since the resources are shared, people working in this type of organization also share their bosses. This increases problems in communications, and many more management skills are required to make it all work.

These problems are offset by the flexibility that is achieved. The matrix organization is able to respond quickly and correctly to the needs of the customer in a proper fashion. The project team has greater focus on the customer's needs. Good project direction and participative management lead to high motivation and a sense of achievement and recognition on the project team.

Moving from a functional organization to a matrix organization may take two to three years in some organizations. This is necessary because it takes time to move the functional managers out of their positions and into other productive areas. If movement from functional organizations to matrix organizations is too fast, the result can be chaos and the loss of important personnel. The objective must be to create the impression that people are going to be promoted to other positions and not that their positions are going to be degraded. The functional managers in the existing organization are the major assets of the company and must not be lost.

Personnel and Personal Evaluations

Many project managers tend to have trouble getting enough people to work on their projects in the beginning. Frequently this problem can be helped by looking at key people who are still assigned to other projects but are close to finishing. Many of these project managers want to keep their key persons ''just in case'' something goes wrong. However, these people are often underutilized and their project managers may welcome the opportunity to have some of their time charged to another project.

Once a project is in the execution phase some of the work of the project will be done in the functional departments. This means that the project manager must have good negotiating skills. The project manager must also be able to negotiate with the functional manager to arrange assignment of people to the project.

Project managers may also need skills in the procurement of personnel from outside the company. Because of the nature of projects there may be unusual skills or unusual quantities of skills required by the project that are simply not available in the company.

Today many project teams are virtual teams, with team members located in different offices, buildings, or even countries. This has been made possible by today's excellent communications through the Internet, cell phones, videoconferencing, and e-mail. We thus can have more skilled individuals working on our project teams than we could in the past. For example, it makes it possible for parents who work at home, mobility-impaired people, and people living in other countries to be an integral part of any project team.

Co-location of project teams becomes more difficult today with the increasing use of virtual teams. What we mean by co-location is physically moving the members of the project team to the same location. This improves casual communication between team members and increases their awareness of what is happening in the project. People working in virtual teams or just in different offices in the same building have a more difficult time becoming a true part of the project team. A good project manager must deal with this fact when forced to work with a virtual project team. Special team building activities must be employed to create a sense of teamwork on a virtual team.

On all project teams a formal set of ground rules should be used, which make all of the team members' expectations clear and avoid misunderstanding during their time spent on the project. These ground rules can cover items like flex time, voluntary and mandatory overtime, training and conferences, travel, formal recognition, and rewards.

It is critically important that functional managers and project managers work together to evaluate employees. This is a problem, because the project team members may be assigned to the project for only a short time and may be assigned to several different projects with several different project managers during the course of the evaluation period. Project managers are oriented toward the goals of the project and frequently think of employee evaluations as administrative work that is the responsibility of the functional manager.

One simple method for accomplishing this and solving the problem is to have the project managers or subproject managers meet individually with people on their project team and review progress being made toward their project assignments. Something as simple as a lined tablet can be used for this. The project manager meets with an individual and makes notes on the tablet. When the meeting is over, a copy of the notes is given to the individual and a copy is filed away by the project manager.

When the person leaves the project, the notes are reviewed by both the individual and the project manager, a summary is written by the project manager with comments by the individual, and the whole package is copied and sent to the functional manager. In this way, when the time of appraisal is due, the functional manager has the notes from the project managers and can make a proper evaluation of the employees.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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