Is the Matrix Worth the Effort?

Taking a cross-functional process view of an organization cuts across all of the authorities and conventions defined by a traditional organization chart. Thus, a process view requires a very different way of looking at an organization, its people, and their teams. It places more emphasis on building a culture of collaboration rather than on siloed working, reporting, and management. The shift to a dual functional and process view can be difficult.

Is it worth the considerable effort required? What benefits do you see that justify the efforts required, over the long term, for such a cultural and operational change? Have you seen this work?

OVERVIEW

Answers to this question generally support the view that, if you accept the importance of cross-functional process performance management and, therefore, BPM, some form of matrix management is not a choice, but a necessity. If that brings complexities with it, they must be dealt with and not avoided. There is general support for the idea that the effort is worthwhile. Given that the organization chart is silent on the issue of cross-functional process management, something additional is required. BPM disrupts the tra- ditional management model replacing siloed line management control with collaborative working. The many difficulties of matrix management are noted, and different models are canvassed.

Several authors note that in looking for cost benefits, we should not focus only on the costs and effort. Where are the benefits? Are there many organizations operating with depth and breadth at the highest levels of BPM maturity? Anecdotally, it is said that BPM maturity is improving, but there is no data. Indeed, such hard data would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to collect. At the level of an individual organization, it is vital that benefits be delivered, measured and tracked—else, the most sophisticated management structure is irrelevant.

ROGER ADDISON
Performance Architect, Addison Consulting

CAROL HAIG
Principal, Carol Haig & Associates

In our experience, consulting with a range of organizations, we have not yet seen a wholly successful Matrix Organization. That said, we have observed effective cross-functional teams established to bridge traditional vertical business units. We are inclined to agree that, today, matrix structures are more common and are likely to exist in some form in most larger, more complex organizations.

JIM BOOTS
Owner, Global Process Innovation

Have I seen this approach work? Yes, more than once, but only up through the early stages of maturity. Unfortunately, management changes and marketplace events have intervened prior to the needed vision, roles, and organizational knowledge becoming embedded in the organization's culture. Nevertheless, the roles and interacting responsibilities of a process-oriented collaborative system have been tested and shown to work.

ROGER BURLTON
President, Process Renewal Group

Individual managers are not stupid, and will work towards their own, albeit conflicting, incentives driven by a dysfunctional organizational structure. Changing the structure of the measurement of people is an absolutely necessary condition for success, but by no means sufficient. Culture, which I would define as 'the behaviors of a group in response to business situations and conditions', will not create itself, even if formal incentives are aligned. There is more to be done.

FRED CUMMINS
Business Systems Architect, Agile Enterprise Design, LLC

Most businesses already have a matrix organization, though they may not acknowledge it. The silos of the traditional line-of-business organizations are not isolated. Of course, there are shared services, such as accounting, purchasing, and human resource management. Usually, IT is a shared service. These may not be considered to represent a matrix organization because they are not in-line with the production of the end product or service.

GABY DOEBELI
Enterprise Architect, Brisbane City Council

Personally, I have experienced organizations that have embarked on the BPM journey applying the practice as a management tool and that have succeeded to various degrees. Organizations that are able to track and show the benefits of the BPM seem to sustain it, even through senior management changes—those not able to clearly state and show the value, seem to have no future.

LEANDRO JESUS
Co-founder & Director, EloGroup

We do not believe in promoting the shift from a functional view to a matrix organization by naming a manager for each of the existing organizational processes; we have seen lot of confusion and little effectiveness in the market in this direction!

MATTHEW J. MORGAN
Head of Process & Metrics Excellence, Bridgewater Assoc.

The journey is a long one and, unfortunately, I cannot yet report a total success from an enterprise that has achieved the highest maturity levels implied by the full cultural embrace of process-oriented management. However, I have experienced several organizations that have made material progress in this direction, reaping benefits along the way.

GILLES MORIN
Founder, BPMPlus Inc.

Is it worth the effort? Yes, if you are in a long-term path to build a change-driven organization and if you want an enduring competitive advantage. No, if you are in a turnaround situation or caught in an everlasting cost-cutting spiral.

PHIL SHORT
IT Director, Mars Canada

In summary, I do not believe that you can truly embrace business process management without some form of governance to promote process knowledge and performance, and to foster standards in tools, techniques, and documentation. It is possible, and maybe even essential, to introduce the levels of governance over time as the organization reaches higher levels of process maturity—but it is not possible to successfully implement a BPM approach without process governance.

PROFESSOR JAN VOM BROCKE
Hilti Chair of Business Process Management, University of Liechtenstein

While culture is increasingly considered as an essential success factor for BPM projects, the underlying mechanisms of how culture interacts with BPM have long remained unclear and under-researched. However, more recent studies have started to explore the relationships of various cultural groups and concepts

Paul Harmon and Roger Tregear

Paul Harmon is the executive editor of BPTrends website and the Chief Methodologist of BPTrends Associates and the author of Business Process Change, 3rd edition. He can be reached at npharmon@gmail.com. As a Consulting Director with Leonardo Consulting, Roger Tregear delivers BPM courses and consulting assignments around the world. Based in Canberra (Australia) Roger spends his working life talking, consulting, thinking and writing about analysis, improvement and management of business processes. His work with clients is on short and long term assignments, in organizational improvement and problem solving based on BPM capability development, and business process, analysis, improvement, and management. He is available to help small and large organizations understand the potential, and realize the practical benefits, of process-centric thinking and management. Contact Roger at r.tregear@leonardo.com.au.
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  1. Process and Performances Architect, Yeah, I want take this title for me…

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