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Balanced Matrix Organization – Definition

Balanced Matrix Organization Definition

A balanced Matrix Organization is one in which a matrix management strategy is put in place to balance the level of authority between the project manager and the functional manager. In this situation, power or authority is shared or distributed between these two set of people, the functional managers and the project managers.

A balanced matrix organization is regarded as a two-dimensional structure of management that entails that employees are distributed into two organizational groups; the functional group and the project group. This strategy aims to achieve a balance between functional and project levels by ensuring that none of these groups enjoy a superior power over another.

A Little More on What is a Balance Matrix Organization

In a situation where a project manager has higher authority than the functional manager, the organization remains a project organization and vice versa. In order to achieve coordination and balance in the matrix of an organization, there must be a balance in the level of authority that both functional managers and project managers have.

For instance, in a case where the project manager is more powerful than the functional manager, all functional tasks in the organization will be controlled by the project manager, in some cases, all works might  be done as projects. If the project manager also has higher level of authority, he can take on other people’s roles consciously or unconsciously.

Although, matrix management organizations might be difficult to manage, balancing the organization is less tasking. There are ways to go by it. Essentially, knowing the nature of tasks and measuring the length of employee’s tasks is one of the ways of effectively balancing the organization.

For instance, some works need to be executed in the project unit while some need to be done in functional unit. If the functional unit has fewer employees than the project unit, a balance in the organization must occur in order to avoid some employees being underutilized and some overutilized.

When an organization transits from being a functional organization to being a matrix organization, it must take cognizance of certain processes. Primarily, the organization can first change to a weak matrix organization before it becomes a stronger and balanced Matrix organization overtime. In a weak matrix organization, the functional managers are made to retain more power while project managers are left with little power but this will change overtime.

Transition process vary from one organization to another, while some have smooth and rapid transition, some experience a slow transition process. However, changing from a functional organization to a matrix organization might require slow and steady processes.

Transition from a functional organization to a matrix organization often takes time, if an organization changes into matrix too quickly, it may lose functional managers who are major assets to the company during the change.

The major reason for the likelihood of loss of senior managers is that these people realize that they might not be as valuable as they are when matrix organization takes over.

Hence, it is essential that the existing senior managers are given time to fit into the new changes in the organization. They must feel valued and not threatened so that loss will not occur.

Usually, when an organization wants to change from a functional organization to a matrix organization, it is often advised that such organization first transition into a weak matrix organization before becoming a balanced matrix organization.

The roles of project managers in weak matrix organizations are minimal, they are called project coordinators in this case. By doing this, a company can gradually move to having more powerful managers till it attains the level of a balanced matrix organization.  In a balanced matrix organization, 15 to 60 percent of the personnel have full-time project work while in a strong matrix organization, 50 to 90 percent of the company’s personnel are assigned to project work full-time.

References for Balanced Matrix Organization

Academic Research on Balanced Matrix Organization

Cross-functional structures: A review and integration of matrix organization and project management, Ford, R. C., & Randolph, W. A. (1992). Journal of management, 18(2), 267-294.

Matrix management: Contradictions and insights, Larson, E. W., & Gobeli, D. H. (1987). California management review, 29(4), 126-138.

Organizing for product development projects, Larson, E. W., & Gobeli, D. H. (1988). Journal of Product Innovation Management: AN INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION OF THE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT & MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION, 5(3), 180-190.

Matrix organization: a review, Knight, K. (1976). Journal of Management Studies, 13(2), 111-130.

Project performance and the locus of influence in the R&D matrix, Katz, R., & Allen, T. J. (1985). Academy of Management journal, 28(1), 67-87.

Balanced scorecards in Finnish companies: a research note, Malmi, T. (2001). Management accounting research, 12(2), 207-220.

Project management effectiveness in project-oriented business organizations, Hyväri, I. (2006). International journal of project management, 24(3), 216-225.

How the balanced scorecard complements the McKinsey 7-S model, Kaplan, R. S. (2005). Strategy & leadership, 33(3), 41-46.

Factors influencing project success: the impact of human resource management, Belout, A., & Gauvreau, C. (2004). International journal of project management, 22(1), 1-11.

Managing two fits of strategic human resource management, Baird, L., & Meshoulam, I. (1988). Academy of Management review, 13(1), 116-128.

Resource allocation under uncertainty in a multi-project matrix environment: Is organizational conflict inevitable?, Laslo, Z., & Goldberg, A. I. (2008). International Journal of Project Management, 26(8), 773-788.


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