Overcoming Matrix Weaknesses

Kenneth has 14 years of healthcare experience in government and private industry. Over eight years of experience managing healthcare IT projects, operations, contracts, and personnel. His work experience includes project management, contracts and procurements, data analysis, claims adjudication, business writing, and business process modeling. Kenneth was certified in 2006 as a Project Management Professional.

Budgets are lean and resources are scattered all over the globe. Organizations--from government agencies to small and large corporations--are increasingly using a weak or balanced matrix organization chart for project execution. In many cases, there is one understaffed project management office to manage projects with the matrixed resources. The matrix organization assigns resources to projects without putting them under the direct authority of the project manager. This type of organization, however, has weaknesses and pitfalls when it comes to executing large projects.

 A typical matrix organizational chart

PMBOK defines a matrix organization as having “a blend of functional and projectized characteristics”, and they can range from weak to strong. Weak matrices are close to a functional organization, where functional managers have direct authority over resources. Strong matrices are close to projectized organizations, where project managers have direct authority over resources. The matrix blends the two different models, often putting a project management office in the middle of the fray between operations and project work.

In the matrix environment, the project behaves like a tree growing beside a river. The tree needs the water to grow so it sends its roots deep underground where the dirt is saturated with water, which is like the …

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