What is the likelihood matrix management will continue to be used? N = 387

¡¡g Definitely will

; "f.""* Jo h . S Probably will __1%

■ Probably will not

Figure 1 : Questionnaire responses.

percent of respondents working in small firms reported using a Project Matrix while the usage levels were lower for both the Balanced Matrix (62 percent) and Functional Matrix (56 percent). No differences were revealed in the usage patterns of large and medium-sized firms.

Matrix: Effectiveness Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of each of the matrix structures they had experienced. Controlling cost, meeting schedule, and achieving technical performance parameters were among the factors considered in evaluating the different structures. The average rating ior each form of matrix is reported in Figure 3. The results indicate a strong preference for the Project Matrix, which was rated above effective. The Balanced Matrix was considered effective, while the Functional Matrix was rated below effective.

The ratings for the total sample are somewhat clouded by the fact that not all the respondents had direct experience with each of the three matrix structures. A more valid reference point can be obtained from the 123 respondents who had direct experience with all three structures. Their ratings are also reported in Figure 3, and here the pattern is further rein-

Not used M Few projects ■ Many projects

Project Balanced Functional matrix matrix matrix

Figure 2: Usage of different matrix structures.

effecthJe ~~ Total sample

Ineffective —

Very ineffective

Functional Balanced Project matrix matrix matrix forced. The Project Matrix received the highest rating while the Functional Matrix was rated as ineffective. The Balanced Matrix received only a marginal rating.

Potential variations in the above results were examined for the size of the firm. One of the reasons mentioned for dropping matrix was that the organization was too small to sustain a matrix structure. However, when effectiveness ratings were examined according to size of the firm, size had little impact on the ratings. For example, both respondents in firms of less than 100 employees and respondents in firms of greater than 1000 employees rated Project Matrix as the most effective.

The results indicate a strong preference for a Project Matrix in which the project manager has primary responsibility and control over development activities. These results may have been tempered by self-interest since a significant portion of the sample was project managers. To examine this potential bias, the ratings of project managers were compared with those of top management and managers in other functional areas. These results revealed only minor differences in the ratings of the three groups. Top management, project managers, and even functional managers were in agreement that the Project Matrix is the most effective form of matrix. The Functional Matrix was considered the least effective, even by the functional managers.

Discussion and Conclusions While matrix might be viewed as being cumbersome, chaotic, and anarchical by critics, it is still widely used by North American businesses. Over three-fourths of the respondents re figure 3: Rated effectiveness of different matrix structures.

ported that their organization has tried matrix and will continue to use it. These results contradict the notion that the popularity of matrix is waning, suggesting instead that matrix is the dominant mode for completing development projects. The support is strong, but not without reservations. The following comment from one respondent is typical of the feelings toward matrix management: "Matrix management works, but it sure seems difficult at times. All matrix managers must keep up their health and take stress tabs."

More specifically, all three forms of matrix were popular, with the Project Matrix having a slightly higher usage rate than either the Balanced Matrix or the Functional Matrix. Size of the firm affected usage patterns only with regard to small firms which were found to have a much stronger preference for the Project Matrix. The effectiveness data confirmed our prediction concerning the relative efficacy of the different matrix structures. The Project Matrix was consistently rated superior to the other two forms of matrix. The Balanced Matrix received a marginal rating, while the Functional Matrix was considered ineffective. These effectiveness ratings were not affected by the size of the firm.

The results of this study reveal an interesting contradiction. If the Project Matrix form is considered the most effective, why are the other two forms used nearly as often?

One explanation for this contradiction can be found in the work of Davis and Lawrence |9|. They argue that matrix systems tend to evolve over time, beginning first with a Functional Matrix, followed by a shift toward a Balanced Matrix, and ultimately matur ing into a Project Matrix. The comparable usage patterns among the matrix structures suggest that the organizations sampled may be at different stages of matrix development.

A related factor is resistance to change. Matrix management, especially the Project Matrix form, represents a radical departure from the conventional functional approach to organizing. Such change is likely to evoke strong resistance. This is especially true among functional managers, who perceive their authority being usurped by the project manager. Since authority typically resides along functional lines before the introduction of matrix, it would seem only natural that vested interests play a role in choosing a weaker form of matrix. Several project managers commented that their company's reliance on a Functional Matrix was politically motivated and that their functional counterparts strongly opposed expanding the role of project managers over projects.

This condition also underscores once again the need to recognize that not all matrix structures are the same. Our position is that much of the recent criticism leveled at matrix is more relevant to the balanced and functional forms of matrix. Conversely, much of the support for matrix probably comes from those using the Project Matrix form. While more rigorous studies are needed to substantiate this claim, the responses from practitioners in this study support this argument. The final lesson to be learned is a relatively simple one: managers who are concerned with the development of new products and services should consider moving to a Project Matrix if they haven't already done so, especially if they see the disadvantages of a Functional Matrix and a Balanced Matrix occurring in their firms.


1. See, for example, Leonard Sayles, "Matrix Management: The Structure with a Future," Organizational Dynamics (Autumn 1976), pp. 2-17; W. C. Goggin, "How the Multi-Dimensional Structure Works at Dow-Corning," Harvard Business Review (lanuary/February 1974), pp. 54-65; lay Galbraith, ed.. Matrix Organizations: Organization Design for High Technology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971).

2. H. Perham, "Matrix Management: A Tough Game to Play," Dun's Review (August 1970), pp. 31-34.

3. Business Week, "An About Face in Tl's Culture," July 5, 1982, p. 77.

David H. Gobeli and W. R. Rudelius, "Managing Innovation: Lessons from the Cardiac Pacing Industry," Sloan Management Review (Summer 1985), pp. 29-43.

5. Business Weefc, "How Xerox Speeds Up the Birth of New Products," March 19, 1984, pp. 58-59.

6. Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, In Search of Excellence (New York: HarperCollins, 1982), p. 49.

7. lay Galbraith, "Matrix Organization Designs—How to Combine Functional and Project Forms," Business Horizons (February 1971), pp. 29-40.

8. For those readers interested in a more comprehensive description of matrix, we recommend: Stanley Davis and Paul Lawrence, Matrix (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.. 1977); D. R. Kingdon, Matrix Organization (London: Tavistock. 1973); Lynn Stuckenbruck, "The Matrix Organization," Project Management Quarterly (1979), pp. 21-33.

9. Stanley Davis and Paul Lawrence, op. cit.


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