Collaborating in a Matrix Environment
Collaborating in a Matrix Environment

At one point in history businesses are managed by a system known as the mechanistic organization.  This organization entails the use of humans as if they were machines (Morgan, 2006).  This means that the humans are set to one very basic task and are challenged to work against efficiency levels and time clocks with very little room for communication between one employee to the next. These are the type of systems that lead employees to want learn how to talk with one another while continuing the task, speaking in short sentence languages to save time and go with distance.  Eventually the technological age brings about an evolutionary change in business systems so that separate functional departments begin to create matrix structures that allow for innovation by the integration of different pieces of data between subsystems (Morgan, 2006).  This post explains what a matrix organization is, some different trends and practices of the matrix organization, and provides examples of how these systems currently work to integrate the subsystems.

What is the matrix organization?

     A matrix organization works under a structure so that certain tasks are designed by teams and then administered to the individual functional departments according to those plans (Morgan, 2006).  These teams usually consist of a representative from each functional department that is able to provide expertise regarding the skills of that department during the planning phase.  With each separate skilled representative providing input, innovative techniques are more advanced and functional representatives are better able to plan for labor and create timelines for these projects. Furthermore, project management teams are more able to plan fundamentals - such as supplies, costs, training, etc (Larsen And Gobeli, 1987).

      Utilizing a matrix organizational structure, departments are remain separate, and departmental employees continue to work similar to a machine.  The main difference between a matrix structure and a mechanistic structure is that there is a horizontal integration during project planning - including the integration of project metrics into the overall system of the business.  What this means is that departments cross boundaries to share communication, skills, and resources as derivatives of new intelligence during project planning. Rather than the work being divided up and planned by specific department heads, the work is planned in a more round table type atmosphere between representatives of those departments (Moran, 2006).  Therefore, the firm can claim to be interrelated and slightly transcendental across boundaries.

Overview of different trends/practices

     In researching various aspects of the matrix organization, there are many different trends and practices to discover.  However, there are a few trends that could be considered as major themes found in each of the practices - market analysis, global integration and design projects.  One interesting article about current uses of the matrix organization explains an occasion to plan out a smart city design.  The actual matrix process includes integrating different technological capabilities with various social perspectives (Branchi and Fernandez, 2014).  Different representatives get together from cross units of the planning structure and assist the team to plan and create the project.

     Another example of a matrix process involves gathering data about the demographics, federal government sections, and the market activity within those regions related to the new spatial design project. Then, utilizing the data by arranging the facts according to specific industry chunks in order to determine regional competitiveness factors through teams of employees (Marat, 2014).  A third matrix of the project involves the practice of integrating design factors of a combined pipe infrastructure with a separate design section that integrates functional procedures into the design (Li and Li, 2014).  So while the dominating trend in this project has to do with data collections across regions or industries, there is an underlying theme that crosses borders with design and functional management. 

     These trendy systems mock the way that some common engineering research firms apparently carry out their work.  For instance, an aerospace engineering firm usually provides services as a secondary contractor to technology, aerospace and defense organizations.  When the organization has a project that they want completed, that company may create a team of employees from various departments that are involved in administering the product.  The company allows these departments to coordinate between each other regarding their individual functional units to design the plan for creating the product according to their capabilities and needs.

Examples of how these systems work to integrate different subsystems

    Although these trendy matrix systems don't appear very integrative at first look, they do have a valuable way of generating the integration of subsystems within the internal structure of a firm.  First of all, the very nature of a matrix system means that resources are planned and balanced for the different subsystems during the teamwork stage.  This means that each subsystem that has a representative as part of the planning team has a voice to recognize and compete for resources (O'Conner, 1999).  As the design system reconciles the project, each subsystem will also have an opportunity to contribute expertise and knowhow to the planning committee that will allow an increased creative ability for innovations (Li and Li, 2014). 

     For many of the matrix systems, subsystems are integrated through the sharing of knowledge across them - from one matrix partner to another (Branchi and Fernandez, 2014; Marat, 2014).  The sharing of knowledge between subsystems seems to be the dominate form of matrix systems.  In these systems, other subsystems can be aware of supplies, leftover supplies, time in labor metrics, even marketing and social factors that could affect the outcome of each department’s specialty contribution. This assists in the generation of innovative design as well as the ability for individual employees to innovate work practices to be more effective with higher productivity potentials.

Conclusions

     Originally management systems started out with subhuman structures where laborers work against metrics and controls and were treated more like a machines (Morgan, 2006).  Eventually there is an evolution of that system so that functions become more organic in nature.  Businesses exercise subunits that are similar to organs in the body where they keep to themselves, but they also interact with surrounding systems and the external environment to keep a homeostasis (Morgan, 2006).  These systems can still be seen in practice in current days.  Some of the current trends in matrix management systems include the utilization of the system to gather knowledge about market, demographics and social factors to predict future sales potentials (Marat, 2014).  They are also used to integrate technological advances with social cultures and preferences (Branchi and Fernandez, 2014) as well as to design and plan for complex systems, including their functional characteristics (Li and Li, 2014).  Matrix systems may not be entirely open systems, but they are open and flexible enough to allow for firms to readjust for change and innovate to keep up with changing markets.  The coming of the matrix system has been recognized as a quality practice in the current technological society.

References

Branchi, P. E., Fernandez-Valdivielso, C., & Matias, I. R. (2014). Analysis matrix for smart cities. Future Internet, 6(1), 61-75. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/fi6010061

Larson, E. W., & Gobeli, D. H. (1987). Matrix Management: Contradictions and Insights. California Management Review, 29(4), 126-138

Li, S.; Li Chen, "Identification of Clusters and Interfaces for Supporting the Implementation of Change Requests," Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on , vol.61, no.2, p.323,335, May 2014doi: 10.1109/TEM.2013.2292856

Marat, S. (2014). Matrix Approach to Assessing Competitiveness of Regions: From Methodology to Practice. Asiona Social Science, Issue 20 Volume 10. DOI: 10.5539/ass.v10n20p47

Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN: 9781412939799.

O'Connor, B. (1999). Matrix management. Works Management, 52(5), 18. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/218729998?accountid=27965

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