How to manage in a Matrix Structure Part I: Understanding the Matrix

Most projects operate within a matrixed environment. Project managers are rarely responsible for the direct management of all or any of the people on the project team. How can we get things done best when we don’t have control over the team?
This article will explain matrix management and the problems it causes for project managers. It’s also why it’s so wonderful.
What is a matrix?

Shilpa Arora (PMP), said that a matrix is a form of organisational management in which people with similar skills are pooled together to work on assignments. “There is no formal authority. You are not responsible for annual reviews or compensation. However, you are responsible for the project structure and the people who are important to your organization.
Take resources from the matrix to support a project team
Shilpa outlined some of the advantages of working in a matrix structure.
You don’t have to perform line management tasks such as pay reviews.
The project’s goals are clearly highlighted.
Each member of the team has a clear responsibility.
Your authority is clear.
You can hire the right people, not just those who work directly for your company, so that the project is (should) be) staffed with the best people.
More debate and challenge is a good thing. It helps to make good decisions.
You have a better chance of understanding the larger project implications and seeing the whole organisation.

Advantages of a matrix structure
Working in a matrix has its down-sides.
A dual reporting structure can cause confusion for the team, as it works simultaneously for their line manager and for you.
Due to the time constraints of the project professional development is not prioritized. This means that team members are deprived of opportunities to grow and improve.
Because there are more people involved, the lead time for decision making is longer.
Complex resource structures result in higher management overheads.

Projects can become isolated in an organization that is structured around project managers reporting directly to them. The whole team is vulnerable to redundancy and dissolution if there is no incentive to complete the work.
Shilpa stated that you can create many fiefdoms within a projectized organization. “In matrixed organizations, you finish the project. It’s very visible. They return to their functional pools and wait until the next project. This is one reason senior managers love matrix structures.
Project Managers face challenges
Although matrix structures can be beneficial for projects, they also have their challenges. The following are some of the major challenges associated with working in a matrix:
Authority lacking
For you and your team, confusion and ambiguity
Feeling out of control
Time pressure

These will be addressed next time. What are the pros and cons of working in a matrixed environment? Comment below to share your thoughts!