Spotify has become the most popular and successful audio streaming platform in the world. Managing such a huge organization may seem difficult but Spotify has surprised the business world with its decentralized practices. The engineering and product team are split into large groups, called ‘tribes’. The departments work independently but manage to collaborate their efforts and enable growth and innovation.

Spotify relies on a light matrix organizational structure that’s critical to its agility and success. It challenges traditional hierarchy and shows the power of autonomy and accountability in this fast-paced world. Read on to learn more about a matrix organization, what it entails and its advantages.


  1. Unpacking The Meaning of Matrix Organization


  2. The Different Types of Matrix Structures


  3. The Two Sides Of A Matrix Organizational Structure

     

Unpacking The Meaning Of Matrix Organization

Behind every successful organization is an effective structure that divides key responsibilities among all employees. One of the most commonly seen structures is a matrix organizational structure. It refers to a system that has a dual grouping of roles and units. In other words, someone will report to two managers and work across two departments at any given time. It may sound complex but it has various advantages, especially when it comes to improving productivity.

The matrix structure distributes resources and people across multiple operational units. For example, a product manager of a geographic division is answerable to both the regional and global head. Therefore, a matrix organization aligns organizational units to two different units at the same time. It uses a hybrid hierarchy format, where an individual reports to two or more managers simultaneously.

Let’s look at the different features of a matrix structure:

  • When an organization has limited personnel and multiple projects to manage, a matrix structure is ideal to simplify tasks and improve efficiency

  • Typically, there are two managers an employee reports to—a functional manager, who has authority over technical aspects and a project manager, who has authority over administrative aspects

  • A matrix organization is an amalgamation of two structures—functional and project-based

The Different Types of Matrix Structures

Designing a matrix structure requires you to analyze whether there is an equitable distribution of powers between two units or more weight is given to one unit over another. Depending on the distribution of power and functions, there are three types of matrix structures.

  1. Weak Matrix Organization

This type of matrix structure is quite similar to a traditional organizational hierarchy. A functional manager is the primary decision-maker, who oversees projects. A project manager also oversees various aspects of a project but an individual is ultimately answerable to the functional manager.

  1. Balanced Matrix Organization

In this type, a project manager has more authority. In other words, an employee reports to a project manager, even though the functional manager has primary authority.

  1. Strong Matrix Organization

In a strong matrix structure, a project manager has equal or more power than a functional manager. The project manager is the primary decision-maker and has more control over resources and delegation of authority.

The Two Sides Of A Matrix Organizational Structure

A matrix organizational structure may increase efficiency and strengthen team loyalty but there are several unavoidable setbacks. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a matrix structure:

Advantages

  1. It allows multiple departments to communicate and collaborate on a project. As one employee reports to multiple managers, it’s easier to resolve issues.

  2. An individual works on a wide variety of projects, which allows them to utilize and adopt different skills. Shouldering different responsibilities can increase professional development and lead to career advancement.

  3. Matrix organizations encourage employee contribution. An individual has more autonomy and can freely share their inputs for a project. This structure values multiple perspectives.

Disadvantages

  1. The primary disadvantage of a matrix structure is authority confusion. The presence of two leaders (project and functional managers) can confuse an employee. There is a high chance of conflicting ideas and strategies as two or more managers may oppose each other’s viewpoints.

  2. It can be a costly form of management as multiple managers take charge of a project. Overhead costs can increase and it can further impact an organization’s budget.

  3. Individuals in matrix organizations often need to work on multiple tasks and projects, making it difficult to define their roles. This is harmful as productivity and efficiency decrease.

If the matrix structure is right for your organization, there are several ways to maximize its efficiency and success:

  • Identify goals and priorities and communicate them to respective managers and team so that everybody is on the same page

  • Establish clear boundaries when it comes to identifying the primary reporting manager

  • You can’t always avoid conflicts; address and manage conflicts before they escalate, creating unnecessary tension

     

Harappa Education’s Navigating Workplaces course will teach you how to manage conflicts effectively. Get skilled at identifying power-holders in your organization with the Power Structures framework. The Thomas Kilmann Model will teach you how to manage conflicts in a healthy manner. Improve workplace efficiency and bring your teams closer. Navigate the power structures and win at your workplace!


Explore topics such as What is an Organizational StructureTypes of Organizational StructureExample of a Matrix StructureFlat Organizational Structure & Divisional Structure from Harappa Diaries and understand how your workplace functions.

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