The Matrix Interface Conflict Mic Is The Most Significant Deterrent To Success

Matrix Theory

Most projects are executed in a matrix organization environment where projects are executed by many departments carrying out the work, usually without adequate decision-making authority of the project manager.

The fundamental of "matrix theory," in a project engineering environment, requires the project objectives and schedule/critical path(s) to be clearly defined so that all working groups would then accept, commit to, and work to, those objectives and schedule. There would be unanimous support from all, so that all would be working to the same set of priorities and objectives. With a strong, project management culture and effective man agement leadership the matrix organization should work. In practice, it has failed. This new approach, is sweeping the industry and, when correctly implemented, does solve the MIC problems.

MICs Reality

The author's experience has shown the existence of MICs to be the NORM, where most "matrix" supporting groups ignore "the program" and replace it with their own approach.

All major studies carried out in the last ten years have come to the same conclusion. Our failure to make the matrix work, is the single, biggest problem. One such study, carried out in 1982, by Folger & Company, was entitled, "The Project Manager Speaks Back" and was a survey of project managers, working in a matrix organization, for twenty major contractors and ten large owners.

The following, was one of the survey's conclusions:

The consensus opinion is that most problem areas are INTERNAL rather than external in nature. Over 90% of the project managers stated that conflicting interests and struggles with department managers was their chief problem."

EXAMPLES OF MICs:

Below are some common examples of issues which contribute to organizational conflicts.

"Turf" Protection Issues

• Conflicts of Interests

• Misplaced Departmental Loyalties

• Management/Supervisory Egos & Jealousies

• Empire Building

• Lack of "Project" Understanding

. Little/No Commitment to the Project Management Function . Negative Policies & Procedures—Project Management Inequality

• Adversarial Relationships ("Us & Them")

Overcoming MICs

Based on the author's direct, personal experience, only one company has developed a Culture that has substantially over come MICs. The major reason for this success, is that this company has an effective Quality Improvement Process/Program (QIP) in place and operational. However, it will take many years for the industry, as a whole, to develop an effective QIP. In the interim, the only effective tool to overcome the MICs, is a well developed project management power base(s). Paul Hersey and Walter Natemeyer, developed these "power bases" as tools for influencing others. Once developed, these "power bases" were then sent to a "survey group" of 146 project managers, all of whom were working in a matrix environment. The project managers were asked to rate the power bases in relation to an outstanding project manager.

The material on these project management power bases has been developed as a workshop and requires the project teams to carry out a function, similar to that of the 146 project managers, by assessing the components which make up each power base.

Typical Examples of MICs

Where the tail, constantly wags the dog. The dog, is the project manager and the tails are, all supporting work groups.

a) Operations & Production Interface (Owner Operation)

In this example, the operations/production group are the project manager's client.

Conflicts of interest and lack of project understanding, by the client, are common problems. This results in poor scope definition, constant changes in scope, lack of project discipline and the development of adversarial relationships, whereby costs increase and schedule slips. Company structure and policy often contribute to the problem. On the one hand, company management holds the operations/production group directly responsible for the efficiency, quality and volume of the plant. Management, then holds the engineering department responsible for ensuring that all plant capital projects, required to meet production goals, are technically and economically viable. This gives the company "protection" through a "Check and Balance" system, but it can and does, create people problems through the "divided responsibility."

Operations, functioning as the client, believe their stated needs are adequate and simply require the project engineering group to "do the work" and immediately. Technical and economic evaluations are unnecessary, they say. and when the evaluations demonstrate that the "stated needs" are not adequate, a MIC can easily occur, and does occur; and is exacerbated by the inequality of the project manager.

This is not to suggest that the "check and balance/divided responsibility" structure should be changed. What is required is that senior management reinforce the project management function and raise its status within the company, so that the image and responsibility of the two groups became more equal and balanced. Constant training of project management and upgrading the program would also reduce the "GAP" between the two groups. Lack of training and poor programs are common.

b) Purchasing Interface

By company policy, project and discipline engineers are often not allowed full access to commercial information on equip-bids. This has led many procurement departments to a "pre-eminent" position and, essentially, become "the tail, wagging the dog." The project management function should include the business analysis and decision-making role, particularly for all equipment and material purchasing.

The purchasing department should be in the support position and provide a "full service" function.

If discipline or project engineers cannot properly evaluate technical and commercial considerations at the same time, or cannot be trusted with sensitive commercial information, they should be trained to handle these responsibilities.

Many owner project managers resolve this problem by contracting out the purchasing function to contractors, (usually reimbursable basis), where they have direct control.

c) Accounting Interface

Accurate and timely cost data is essential for effective project control. The accounting/cost reports need to be available some three days after the cut-off reporting period.

This is rarely the case!

The common situation, is for the accounting/cost report to be issued two/four weeks after the cut-off date. In many cases, the project engineering/project control groups establish their own cost commitment data base at significant cost and effort.

The problem is that capital project work is a small part of the financial activities of most accounting groups. Also, many accountants have little understanding of the need of project personnel for accurate and timely cost commitment figures.

Resolving the problem is relatively simple. It is to establish a project cost accounting group (two or three people, usually,) within the accounting department with these people receiving daily direction from project engineering. To say it is relatively simple in solving the problem is a complete understatement, as most company managements do not have the understanding or the will to direct that such a group be established. Most accounting groups belong to financial divisions of a company where the financial V.P.. or controller is in charge. Such individuals are rarely conscious of, or sympathetic to, project management needs.

occur at senior management levels, as well as at intermediate and junior levels.

The New Company Culture

This new culture has resulted from the self-examination that many companies have undertaken, or are now undertaking, in order to improve their quality of performance. The major focus has been on the principles and process of leadership, customer employee needs, market share, and a detailed examination of the organizational structure.

Typical and common programs of the self-examination process include the following:

. Personnel leadership at all levels

. Employee involvement in company policy

• Benchmarking (methods and procedures)

• Employee empowerment

• Management inspection process

. Manager as a role model

Personal Leadership At All Levels

The focus is that the company is a quality company and that its employees are the heart and engine of the company. Quality improvement through the exercise of leadership skills is, therefore, the responsibility of every employee. This results in the following:

• Positive, open personal relationships

• Effective personal/departmental communications

• Commitment to company/project objectives

. Constant evaluation of quality of services

Employee Involvement In Company Policy

Employee involvement efforts typically require group problem-solving. Standing committees or quality groups are established to develop and monitor organizational relationships, operating procedures, quality standards, personnel appraisals, job duties and work expectations.

This effort develops company esprit de corps and the feeling that the employee is directly involved in company policy and its decision-making process.

Benchmarking (Methods and Procedures)

Benchmarking identifies the gap between current company methods and procedures and the latest state-of-the-art. The gap identifies the need for change, the dimension of the change, and the result that can be achieved by changing. The need for change is evident only when the latest state-of-the-art techniques are recognized and it is realized that current company methods are outdated.

The problem experienced by many companies is in actually knowing the latest state-of-the-art techniques. A quality training program and methods development department can greatly assist with this problem.

Employee Empowerment

With the focus on quality and leadership, employees are given the authority to make changes to improve their work processes. This results in building a more effective and productive work force. However, individual employees can abuse the empowerment process through lack of thought and lack of experience and can, therefore, reduce their productivity and effectiveness.

Typical examples of empowerment are the self-quality responsibility of manufacturing lines, where the production workers can stop production for poor quality. At the same time, they must identify the problem/cause to management.

Management Inspection Process

The manager is the kev. The manager is a key link in the implementation of the new "culture." The manager's role is to learn, use, teach, and inspect the new processes and tools. The inspection process has special meaning in this context. This type of inspection is not the traditional concept of evaluating results, but W. Edwards Deming's notion of inspecting the steps (the process) used to accomplish the results. Inspection is a vital ingredient in continuous quality improvement. The emphasis is on coaching, not judging. The manager continually asks "why?" in order to understand actions, conclusions, and decisions. He or she ensures that the team is consciously following the correct processes and applying appropriate tools to identify, analyze, solve problems, and continuously improve. This process helps to prevent errors or wasted efforts. It also requires that the manager coach people in their current work; teach them the use of quality processes and tools; and encourage them to become self-inspecting.

The following guidelines support the inspection process:

• Begin and end with positive feedback.

. Do not overload the team with information.

• Reduce/control negative feedback.

• Where possible, include specific answers.

• Ask questions; obtain specific answers.

. Do not do all of the talking.

• Focus on improvement, not the errors/problems.

. Help the group to summarize the necessary action items.

It is essential, if the process is to work, that the manager be skilled in the development and application of the working tools.

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