When a matrix organizational structure is implemented within the workplace, then there are cross-business, cross-functional units which are working together. Within a matrix, an individual may have multiple supervisors because their work responsibilities are no longer linear.
Someone who is in charge of marketing, for example, may also be responsible for customer service issues, being a liaison to the community, and perform sales functions in addition to their marketing responsibilities. This person would manage multiple projects for several different supervisors, even though none of them may be their direct supervisor.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having a matrix organizational structure in the workplace.
List of the Advantages of the Matrix Organizational Structure
1. There is less overall downtime within the workplace.
When a matrix organizational structure is implemented, then everyone stays busier on any given day. Instead of being limited to their own silo, workers can be moved from place to place when demands make it necessary. That means you’re working on multiple projects at once instead of one project at a time. Although multitasking does bring with it certain disadvantages, you won’t have workers twiddling their thumbs is there is a slow day of work with their primary job responsibilities.
2. There is more flexibility built into the structure for employers.
When the matrix structure is used, then you can pull someone with relevant experience from any department. If there is someone in sales with marketing experience and the marketing department needs help, then that person can be pulled. There is a lot of flexibility within the matrix because people can be placed into any position, at any time, to focus on their experiences and strengths. It creates a company-based approach instead of a team-based approach.
3. There is more consistency within the workplace.
One of the biggest issues faced by the modern workplace is an unequal dissemination of work. When one team is always busy, and another is not, but both teams earn the same in wages, the people who are always busy are going to experience lower morale. When you have more options available for assignments, then the workload becomes more consistent. There is less confusion about work assignments. Everyone needs to work the same way to prevent communication issues.
4. There are opportunities to save money.
Imagine that you have three departments in an organization. Each one provides a small contribution to the customer service experience. In a hierarchal structure, the company might decide to hire three employees to cover these issues – one for each department. With a matrix organizational structure, one worker can be in charge of all the customer service experience needs across all the departments because their experience can be pulled by all three departments. That saves the company money because they’re able to reduce waste, eliminate duplication, and streamline job functions.
5. There are opportunities for employee growth.
One issue that many companies face is a lack of awareness of the overall vision and mission of the organization at the entry-level positions of the company. The lower you are on the chain of command, then the less you pay attention to the 5-year plan. These workers get their job done, every day, and that’s it. With a matrix organizational structure, these workers can see how different areas of the company function, allowing them to see why some jobs are completed in a specific way.
6. There are two types of management positions available.
Within a matrix organizational structure, there are usually two separate chains of command that are utilized to move communication from the C-Suite to the entry-level workers. There are functional managers, who have the “traditional” responsibility of managing their direct reports. Then there are project managers, who have the responsibility of completing specific assignments as they come in. That makes the managerial roles be fluid instead of fixed, making it possible to utilize leadership strengths of managers in better ways.
7. There are fewer power definitions used within the company.
Even though there are two types of managers in a matrix organizational structure, with two chains of command, the balance of power between these two “groups” is not usually defined. Many managers need to work together, on teams of their own, to ensure that workers are completing their work assignments as expected. This further eliminates the silo concept from the workplace as information transparency is the only way to ensure every manager knows what is going one with specific workers.
8. There are fewer areas of organizational disruption over time.
When a project is completed, the pulled workers can be put back onto their teams with little difficulty. The organization sees little disruption with the movement, assuming communication is happening across team and project lines.
List of the Disadvantages of the Matrix Organizational Structure
1. There can still be a lot of conflict in the workplace.
Although the matrix organizational structure attempts to reduce conflict in the workplace, it tends to create plenty of drama when implemented. If you pull in resources from another department to work on a project, there will be workers who feel like they’re being told they are incompetent. Workers can feel torn between their “regular” duties and the jobs assigned to them by the matrix. Both issues create a conflict in loyalty that can lead to issues of worker retention over time.
2. There are still resource allocation issues.
In a perfect world, the matrix organizational structure would always put the best people into the places where they are needed the most. In reality, managers keep their best people within a fenced ring to prevent their experience from benefitting other teams. That means the people who are pulled to work on other projects have fewer skills and experience, which eventually degrades the quality of the products or services produced.
3. There can be goal misalignment within the workplace.
Even though two departments work for the same company, their required metrics could be competitive. When a worker is pulled from one department to the other for a project, they might be asked to complete work that competes with the objectives present in their own job. When that occurs, the outcome is almost always an inconsistent message from those who are in charge. At the end of the day, the worker becomes confused and this reduces their productivity.
4. There can be confusion about who is in charge.
In a standard chain of command, a worker would have a direct supervisor to whom they would report. With a matrix organizational structure, there is a “dotted line” added to the chain of command for every additional supervisor that might be assigned to a project being worked on. When there is more than one supervisor who demands information from a worker, it can become confusing to know who is in charge. More importantly, it may be difficult to know who has the final say on decisions which need to be made.
5. There is a need for willing workers within this structure.
When a matrix organizational structure is being used, you must have workers who are willing to be multi-dimensional with their work duties. They need to love being able to do something different every day. You also need workers who are gratified by the work that they do and are passionate about the company. At the end of the day, you’re asking people to do more for the same wage with this structure, so if there are no self-gratified workers present, there can be a lot of rebellion.
6. There can be a loss of middle authority.
In a matrix structure, the importance of entry-level and middle management positions is greatly reduced. Instead of being in charge of a team, these managers and supervisors are in charge of projects. They might have their own team of direct reports, but those people might be assigned to other tasks at any given time. That reduction of authority means only senior managers are seen as “true leaders” within the company, yet it is the lower levels of management which a=re asked to handle the day-to-day issues which come up.
7. There can be a snowball effect.
No one is perfect. Through quality assurance protocols, there may be corrections that need to be made in the work completed. Because there are multiple people pulled from multiple departments working on projects in a matrix organizational structure, these corrections must be made immediately. If they are not, then trying to pull together a project team after it has disbanded can be extremely difficult. That places the future of customers, your talent, and your organization on the line.
The advantages and disadvantages of a matrix organizational structure make it easier to move resources to the most important projects which need to be completed. They also create uncertainty within the workplace, as workers may not know who needs to receive information about the work they’ve done. That is why clear communication is necessary within this structure on a consistent basis. Without communication, the negatives tend to outweigh the benefits.