Matrix Organization

From Keith Faradale's "Comprehensive Project Management"

From Keith Faradale's "Comprehensive Project Management"

In the other extreme, the primary accountability of the project team members is to the project, with the role of the functional manager focused on support and career development of his employees. The team member's performance review, while usually officially within the framework of the functional department, is usually driven mainly by input from the PM.

Most companies operate with a structure somewhere between these extremes, with a more balanced mix of functional and project authority. A well-balanced matrix structure is very hard to attain, and the key to making it work is to have a well-defined division of responsibility. Generally the PM makes the calls on the 'what' and the 'when' and the functional manager makes the calls on the 'who' and the 'how'. This can work very well. But it also makes a difficult environment for the team member who is caught between the two influences, often in situations of conflict. It is difficult for the team member to decide which one to please, yet there might be too much work for him to be able to please both, requiring someone (the team member?) to use strong problem solving skills to create a solution which meets the needs of both supervisors.

There is no "correct" approach to balancing project versus functional priorities. All structures have their advantages, and for some projects, one works better than the others. For some people, one works better than the others. So, where the flexibility in the corporate culture exists, it would be wise for management to consider the alternatives carefully to determine which would be best for each project. Not many companies are flexible enough to be able to vary the structure used from one project to another, so there may be times in any company where the culture becomes counterproductive.

One sort of project structure that is very difficult to characterize into categories of functional, project, or matrix organization is that of a research and development organization. A development group's workload is a succession of projects, which typically are well organized and tracked on a formal basis. Yet the development personnel are organized according to narrowly defined functional categories: hardware and software design, system verification, etc. The multidisciplinary development team is entirely project focused, but typically reports to the same manager who performs both functional and project management duties. The development company then, can be characterized as a functionally oriented organization designed to support ongoing operations. The product that is churned out by this operational structure, however, is a series of well-managed projects!

With all these alternatives for the project team, what of the project manager himself? Some companies, mostly larger ones, will have a Project Management functional department, led by a senior manager who may be titled Program Director, or something similar, and with a staff of project management specialists who are assigned to projects in the same manner as the other team members. The Program Director has to have a uniquely good view of all the ongoing projects in the overall to be able to make correct decisions regarding the priorities of the ongoing projects.

Another approach for providing project managers is more appropriate for smaller companies. In this case, a functional organization that has a vested interest in mounting a project will act as champion of the project, and provide a project manager to run it. Marketing or Product Management organizations, for example, would be likely candidates to initiate a project to introduce a new product to market. Manufacturing Engineering departments are likely sources of projects to introduce new test equipment, or redesign a production line. With this structure, it is likely that the project manager will be very well versed in important skills relevant to the project at hand. However, it is not always the case that such a person will have classical project management skills such as scheduling and budgeting. This approach works surprisingly well when the organization is used to doing things on a project basis.

These different approaches reflect different cultural approaches to the role of the project manager. Larger organizations with Project Management departments tend to consider that classical project management skills are of paramount importance, and they believe that a sufficiently expert PM is able to successfully run a project regardless of the technical content. The smaller companies will tend to feel that the key technical competencies of the PM will more than make up for his lack of classical PM training.

Neither is correct. To be successful the PM needs to have both sets of skills. Technical ability is critical for gaining credibility, and thereby influence, with members of the project team. On the other hand, lack of competence in the classical PM skills can lead to severe problems if a well-intentioned PM, however technically astute, fails to provide the objectivity that classical project management teaches.


We have noted that a PM needs to have a very wide range of skills in order to do his job successfully. But there is one skill that is very critical for a PM. That skill is leadership.

Leadership is the ability to get others to commit to the project in order to accomplish the stated objective. A leader is someone who can get people to do things that they would otherwise not have done - in other words, someone who can get people to follow him or her. One of the biggest requirements for a leader is the ability to engender trust. People will not follow someone who they cannot trust. Therefore the leader must possess characteristics, and perform actions that lead others to trust him. This generally means that the leader lives up to high standards, sets goals that others respect, respects other people and shows it, and shows empathy for the team members problems and concerns. The leader must be honest with the team. He also needs to give them feedback, positive and negative, in such a way that people can improve and work effectively towards the project goals. If the leader cannot make people like and respect him, possessing the other traits will do little to achieve success. Charisma is also good, but you need more than just charisma. If the leader cannot back it up, things tend fall through in the long run

The leader has to have vision. This is another absolute 'must' for a leader. He needs to understand the vision and be able to communicate it effectively. Often, setting an example is important. Asking someone to do something you wouldn't do yourself is not really a valid request. If the leader stands up for what he believes, makes it known to others what his vision is, and in which direction he is headed, others are more comfortable following him.

One quality of leadership is good communication. Leadership is also the ability to motivate and empower people to do work. Demonstrating and using leadership and is a key to project success. It is also useful to use such skills to obtain the support of higher management, as this will add to the strength of requests from the PM.

The leader must communicate the vision for the project, organize and communicate the necessary information, form the right alliances with those who can help the project along, keep the team moving, and help the team overcome obstacles. As a leader the PM must be able to reason, make decisions, see the whole picture and think quickly and out of the box!

A true leader can ask people to do things and get results because the people respect him. But respect does not come automatically. Respect is earned. The leader must possess most of the characteristics mentioned here, and sometimes more, in order to gain that respect.

In a project, there are always people who do not report to the project manager. In the case of some organizations, the PM is often selected from the lower levels of the management ranks. In these cases leadership skills are invaluable, as the PM needs to have others assist the team in proceeding towards the vision for the project, and he cannot use rank to do this. Even with rank, politics can get into the way of someone who does not display strong leadership skills. So it is recommended that the PM work on building and demonstrating these skills at every opportunity.

Models do exist to describe leadership styles and management styles. The Bonoma Slevin Model is one such model describing the styles of leadership. This model divides leadership styles into four categories: Shareholder, Consensus Manager, Consultative Autocrat and Autocrat. The distinctions are created by the level of input that subordinates have to decisions as opposed to the leaders input, and the amount of authority the leader gives to the team in making decisions. Each leader falls into one of these categories, as shown in Figure 5. Once a team knows which category a PM fits, they can make some good predictions about how he will act in specific situations.

Honoma/Slcvin Leadership Model 100




Honoma/Slcvin Leadership Model 100





Igigl,.., j^j^^dH


Low High



Figure 5

Slevin & Pinto, PMJ March 1991

Here are a few effective leadership techniques that project managers can use:

=> Use objectives for managing the team => Listen

=> Create a psychologically safe environment => Take time to encourage competence => Aim for quality => Keep group focused on goals

The fact that someone has a title does not in itself make that person a leader. The title does give the person authority, and with authority comes a degree of power. But a leader can gain power by other means if he does not have the title. Without the title the leader needs to use influence to get others to do things. Influence comes from many sources, including knowledge, who you know, having resources, strength, charisma, communication skills, using force, being annoying, reputation, humour, negotiation, education, experience, personality, common interests, and many more.

Team Building

As a project leader, a project manager must inspire a project team to meet all the project objectives. This must be done within one of the environments described above, which means that in some cases the team is not really a team in the sense of being organizationally structured as a team - but they must act as a team none-the-less if the project is to be completed within all the constraints. The project manager is responsible for creating a team atmosphere for this group of people, and getting them to operate as one, rather than as a set of individuals.

The PM and the core team are responsible for planning and executing all project activities. In every project there is a core team, and then there is one or more level of extended team as well. The core team should include all the functional skills required to complete the project. It is a subset of the stakeholders, and in fact a subset of the full project team. The core team is made up of the people who do the project work. One might ask whether it is work to say "That looks like a good proposal. I'll give you the money to do that project"? The sponsor does this. Is the sponsor on the team or not? Generally people would say that the sponsor is a member of the extended team, since he funds the project, and may also provide support when issues arise. But generally he does not work on this project activities on a day to day basis. So this is one example of someone who is a stakeholder, and even a member of the extended team, but is usually not a member of the core team. It is mainly the core team that the PM must pull together, but the project will be even more effective if the extended team members also identify as themselves as part of the project. In fact, there is often more than one layer of extended team. In the case of the development of an ecommerce service, the core team might consist of marketing, engineering, operations, and programming managers from the company, and the first layer of the extended team might be the sponsor, the functional managers who meet biweekly with the PM to hear about the status and react to requests, and three contacts from the three customer departments who will be involved in the customer use of the service. The next layer of the extended team might be the people who work in those three customer departments, who will use the e-commerce system, and also implement the offering of their own services via the e-commence service to their customers. There might well be questions that the core team comes upon which need to be answered by members of the second layer of extended team.

The team might also vary over time -some people might work on the core team for some time, until the portion of the project that needs their skills has been completed, then move off the team for the duration of the project.

The PMBOK® GUIDE describes the Team Development process:

Figure 6

These processes encompass the actual selection of the team, the process of obtaining these resources, then also working with them. Although not all of this is team building, team building should be a factor throughout these activities. Right from the initial selection of team members, the PM must keep in mind both the person's technical skills and his interpersonal abilities. When the initial team is formed, the PM must initiate some activities that will help them to feel and act like a team. Then, as additional people come on board, the PM needs to ensure that the new people integrate well into the team, and that the changes they will undoubtedly create in the team dynamics are positive.

The PM should be aware that he needs to observe and manage the group dynamics in order to create the best atmosphere for the team. He needs to consider the roles of the individuals, and how the individual interactions will contribute to the group roles. The PM should work with the team to determine the type of culture that will be pleasant and motivating for them, and to build this culture within the team. The culture can impact everything from the frequency of meetings, to the sharing of information to the decision making methods, and even the amount of social interaction of the team members. They must all be comfortable working within the culture the team adopts.

The project manager needs to consider all aspects of the personalities of the people on the team, and ensure that he selects team members who will complement each other. Extroverts like to work on teams; introverts may prefer not to work closely with others. Generalists love projects with multidisciplinary teams while specialists prefer to work in their own area only. Thus the PM with a project requiring a multidisciplinary team but also some very specialized skills will have a challenge to help the specialists to feel comfortable inter-working with the other team members.

In order to create the right atmosphere for a professional team, the PM must build a relationship in which the team trusts him and each other. To ensure this, the PM should ensure that he always treats everyone fairly, and that he gives each team member responsibility, and the opportunity to excel in this responsibility. He needs to ensure that each member of the team is living up to expectations, and is acting in a way that supports the team and its goals. The PM must ensure that all team members, including himself, share any communication which is needed by the team. He must also ensure that all interactions amongst team members are at a professional level.

The goals of team building are:

■ Having all team members committed to the project and its objectives

■ Having all required skills and expertise on board

■ Building consensus on project goals and objectives

■ Ensuring that all team members enjoy working together

■ Enabling cross fertilization of ideas (creativity and innovation)

■ Engendering loyalty to the project

■ Engendering loyalty and respect to the project manager

■ Creating team spirit and building morale

■ Engendering trust within the team interactions

There are many books on team building, with hundreds of suggested activities to help build and maintain a team atmosphere. A few such suggestions for project teams are:

Build communication skills (times, paths, locations)

A suggested PM activity is to build a communications plan, with all required communications identified. Beyond this, the team needs to encourage and facilitate as much communication as possible, and to work on improving the communication skills of the team members so that these communications will be as effective as possible

Conduct team building exercises

Often team building exercises are social outings, but it is also possible to reserve some of the time during a project meeting to play some small games that enable people to learn more about each other, and to build trust.

Incorporate team building activities into project activities

This might happen by default, but it is best ifthe PM uses some energy to ensure that people do have the opportunity to do more than just focus on deliverables during the project. The effort spent in building the team will be more than paid back in success.

■ Build a professional atmosphere

A professional atmosphere can be one of the strongest factors in building trust amongst team members. People who work in telecommunications are professionals, and they appreciate being treated as such. But a professional atmosphere is not easy to maintain without maintaining an ongoing focus on interactions.

■ Present a challenge

A challenge does bring people together, and when people meet the challenge, this engenders respect from others. A challenge encourages people to work together to overcome obstacles, and meet goals.

Set up a war-room

When the team has a place that they can go to work together, and a place to post ideas and information, this makes it much easier

Team rewards

Team rewards do not have to be expensive, if the project cannot afford them. A reward can be having the PM or, even better, the Vice President deliver coffee to someone who has made a great contribution. People like to have meaningful contributions recognized.

■ Be careful not to create yourself as a bottleneck to communication

The PM and every team member needs to ensure that communication does occur, and to ensure that nothing stops with them.

Accept responsibility for your actions

Not many things can kill a relationship as surely as finger pointing. In the heat of the moment in a stressful environment, fingers do start to point, and the PM needs to create a culture which discourages this, and ensures that it is curbed immediately.


Co-location can help with communication, although this is not always possible in today's environment. If team members are not co-located, the team needs to work harder to create a team atmosphere

Every team has its own culture, so it is wise for the project manager to work to create the culture he would find comfortable for working, and hopefully he would do this with the core team so that they will also be comfortable. Together the team should develop team culture within desired bounds. Initially the PM would have team members define the cultural attributes they desire. It might even be wise to use the brainstorming technique at a team meeting to allow all inputs to be considered. Before working to establish any particular state, the PM should ensure full acceptance of all desired cultural conditions. Once the end result is known, the team must define actions which will enable/build the desired cultural aspects. As the project progresses, the team should allow respectful reminders when someone's actions fall outside accepted culture. One basic principle that should apply in every case is the assurance of professionalism at all times.


The PM must motivate all team members, to ensure project success in all dimensions of the project. Motivation is encouraging others to perform by fulfilling or appealing to their needs. No one technique or reward mechanism will work for all. Motivation is individual and situational.

Let's take a look at some theories of motivation. These are not new theories. They have been studied for many years, but still survive, indicating that there is probably merit in each.

■ Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

■ Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs

Figure 6 shows the hierarchy that Maslow uses to illustrate different categories of needs.

Figure 6 shows the hierarchy that Maslow uses to illustrate different categories of needs.

Figure 7

According to Maslow the needs at the lower levels must be fulfilled before a person can focus on the higher levels. Trying to meet higher level needs will not be effective if a lower need is not met. Since most business environments focus on the top two layers, people will find that there are times when efforts to motivate are unsuccessful. If the team members have unmet needs at the lower levels, anything that addresses the top levels will not be successful, because the person will remain focused on the lower levels until those needs are met.

Herzberg's Hygiene Factors

Herzberg divides factors into two categories, hygiene factors and motivations. The "Hygiene factors" or turn-offs are related to company policy and administration, to supervisory styles, to the interpersonal relations that exist for the person, to working conditions or salary, or possibly job security. Once this type of need is satisfied, doing anything more to meet the same need is not a motivation. At this point achievement and recognition can be motivators instead of things that address the environment. If any of these factors are not met, this is definitely a demotivator.

Motivators, or "turn-ons" include achievement, recognition of achievement, the work itself (nature and meaningfulness), responsibility and advancement. Providing these will motivate team members.

MacGregor's Theory X and Y

THEORY X (autocratic)

B People want situations well-defined; and to carry out orders

■ Some people are strong, wise, aggressive and creative

B A manager gives orders, does not explain

I People want to be controlled and directed

■ People are happy when under wise and tight control

THEORY Y (democratic)

■ People have creative capacity and want to use it

■ Most people can be developed to be wise, strong and aggressive

■ A manager encourages participation in all decisions at all levels

■ People want to make their own decision and resent coercion

■ People are happiest when given wide responsibilities and will

Figure 8

In general, following principles presented by such theories, the some good motivational techniques include:

■ Give people a sense of pride/satisfaction

■ Recognition

■ Empowerment - properly done

■ Interesting challenging work

■ Appropriate control

■ Clear role definition

■ Clear direction

■ Professional environment

■ Positive feedback

Many people believe that money is a motivation. Some people say that money is not a motivator. Herzberg says that absence of enough money is a demotivator, but more money beyond 'enough' doesn't motivate people to work harder or better. For PM's this might be fortuitous, since project budgets don't always have the flexibility and resources to allow the PM to give people money. In fact, if money were the panacea that a lot of people think it is, many companies would be much more successful in retaining more of their key talent. Some people leave for reasons other than the money, or lack of it. In fact, in the heyday of the dotcoms, companies were almost throwing money at people, and in the end it didn't engender loyalty, or productivity. The volunteer culture is an excellent example of motivators other than money. People who volunteer clearly get something from it - so there are other very strong motivators that can be used, even when one has no ability to give money.

Managers understand that motivators are different for different personality types. Therefore it is necessary to know people well enough to know what drives them in order to know how to motivate them.

Recognition works in well all cases - as long as the recipient has respect for the source of the recognition. From this it follows then that it is important for the PM to generate the respect of the team members.

Dealing with Conflict

Even with all the team building, and the motivation, at some point every project manager will have to have to deal with a situation in which there is conflict. Conflict exists in all organizations and especially on projects organizations because there is usually high stress, often ambiguous roles for the team members, who might at the same time have multiple bosses. We need to understand conflict, and how to manage it.

Views of Conflict



Caused by trouble makers

Should be avoided Must be suppressed

Inevitable between humans

Often beneficial Natural result of change Can and should be managed

Figure 9

In one view, there are two types of organizations or people, those labelled traditional in Figure 9 and those labelled contemporary. The labels apply to management theories used by companies in North America. In projects conflict is definitely inevitable, and if it's going to be there, PM's must be prepared to manage it.

Many factors cause conflict, amongst them

■ Communication barriers

■ Conflict of interest/attitudes

■ Differentiation in the organization

■ Need for consensus

■ Unresolved prior conflict

In spite of the fact that some people think that conflict is bad, and that most people do not like to be in conflict situations, there are some PM's who admit that they try to stir up conflict. Their reasoning is that there are benefits from conflict, and they want to take advantage of these. There are, in fact, benefits that can arise from conflict, but it takes proper management to ensure that the benefits do not outweigh the negative implications.

The benefits include:

Stimulation of a search for new facts or resolutions

When conflict arises, each party attempts to justify their opinion. This brings new information forward, and can have the end result of making everyone more aware, and possibly unearthing new possibilities.

2. Improved communication

As above, more information will be shared due to the conflict.

3. Diffusion of more serious conflict

If one conflict occurs and occupies the team, potential other conflicts can be avoided.

4. Increase in group cohesion and performance

When two parties have been through conflict together, even if they have been on opposite sides at the time, they can form strong bonds, having shared a difficult situation, and these bonds bring them closer together in the future.

5. Development of problem solving techniques

Recommended techniques for dealing with conflict are:

■ Withdrawal

■ Accommodating

■ Compromising

■ Problem Solving

Withdrawing, also called avoiding in some models, is passive, and while it alleviates the symptoms, it doesn't solve the underlying problem that caused the conflict. It is used in many situations, such as by parents with children, or in cases of potential physical violence because it can provide a cooling off period.

Accommodating, also known as smoothing de-emphasize differences between the parties and emphasizes commonalties in motivations or interests and goals. This solution can also clear the symptoms but the solution is only temporary. For those who are uncomfortable with confrontation, accommodating keeps atmosphere friendly.

Compromising is essentially bargaining to an "acceptable" resolution. While it might be necessary to use this technique in some cases, this is also a temporary solution which in the long term usually satisfies no-one but it is decisive.

Forcing or competing is just what it appears to be. Force should be used as a last resort, because it creates a win-lose environment, which fosters antagonisms. It does not resolve the underlying issue, but it is rapid and decisive, and when things are going in circles, it can be a welcome solution.

Problem Solving, also called collaborating or confronting is a solution in which the participants confront the problem, collect information, develop alternatives, analyze & select a solution that which meets all needs.

Principles similar to those of negotiation are used, such as separating the people from the problem. When a solution is found both parties can be satisfied, and all needs are met, so the underlying issue goes away - but it is time consuming.

It is interesting to note that the quadrants in this model can be aligned with the quadrants in the Bonoma Slevin model described earlier. What this means is that if people can determine someone's leadership style, they should be able to predict how the person would deal with a conflict situation.

Another similar model is the Thomas Kilmann model, which has similar categories.

All of these techniques are valid for some situations and it is recommended that PM's use all of the techniques at different times. Consider when it would be useful to use each technique.


I* When you cannot win When the stakes are low

When the stakes are high, but you're not ready yet To gain time

To unnerve your opponent To preserve neutrality or reputation

• When you think the problem will go away When you win by delay

SMOOTHING or ACCOMMODATING To reach an overarching goal

• To create obligation for a trade-off at a later date When the stakes are low, or to gain time When liability is limited To maintain harmony When any solution will be adequate To create goodwill

• When you will lose anyway


When both parties need to be winners

When you cannot win

When others are as strong as you are

When you haven't time to win

To maintain your relationship with your opponent

When you are not sure you are right

When you get nothing if you don't

When stakes are moderate

To avoid giving the impression of fighting


• When you are right and stakes are high

• When a "do or die " situation exists

I* When important principles are at stake

• When you are stronger

• To gain status or demonstrate power

• In short term, one shot deals When the relationship is unimportant

• When it is understood that a "game" is being played


• When you both get at least what you wanted and maybe more

• To create a common power base or to attack a common foe

• When skills are complementary

• When there is enough time

• When you want to preclude later use of other methods

• When you have confidence in the other person's ability

• To maintain future relationships


Learning is a basic premise of Project Management. All team members should buy in to the need for project teams and members to learn - from their efforts, and from their mistakes. Mistakes must be allowed to occur, but used to effect positive growth. This is a difficult concept for many companies, who in fact punish people who make mistakes. But, if order for people to gain the most, projects should document what went right, and also what went wrong, so that information can be gained from the mistakes.

Every project manager should develop a culture of learning for the project. Then all team members should be encouraged to share and document all lessons learned. The post project review is then the tool to facilitate learning. But the organization must ensure that project lessons are made available to future project teams, and encourage the new teams to invest the time to review and digest the lessons early in the new project.

All of these topics - leadership, team-building, motivation, dealing with conflict and learning are thoroughly covered in psychology and management literature. Theories presented here are not new, but are still widely accepted. Research continues in these areas, and many books are published to assist managers. A wise PM will develop these skills, and always be on the lookout for new, more effective techniques.

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  • armida mazzanti
    What is matrix in project planning?
    1 month ago

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