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Topics: Organizational Culture
Ideas on changing a Weak Matrix Organization to a Projectized
Most of you will understand the challenges of executing projects in a weak matrix organization leveraging borrowed resources from functional leaders. How are companies becoming projectized? what are some things PMs can do to transform your organization into a projectized environment?
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Eddie,

In a week matrix organization, project managers have limited authority , the authority resides in functional managers.
On one side the first thing i see that PM can do here is to influence, to use the power of persuasion, to leverage relationships and networking in order to influence, on the other side is try to influence by example executing the projects with success and by that i mean that they are executed on schedule, cost and quality and above all they deliver value to the customer.
If the top management see this as a competitiveness factor this could be a way of influence to change the organization structure.
Sure you must influence also the functional managers otherwise they could see this change as a threat.

Alexandre
A weak matrix is a definite advantage if your teams are taking an agile approach. With effective agile teams, proper engagement with product owners/stakeholders should be more important than matrix management. Maybe you could support an agile transformation effort if you think that's not something your organization is doing well enough.
A PM or any other individual should be able to present ideas for improvement. At the end of the day, the management team will make the calls based on what they appraise is best to the organization.

There is a famous fable titled "Our Iceberg is melting", which deals about introducing and managing change. I recommend to read it, you will probably find yourself identified with the penguin Fred.
Eddie -

As Alexandre has indicated, an average PM, especially in a functional or weak matrix structure will have very little influence or formal authority to be able to drive organization re-design.

However, if that PM has strong trusted relationships with the executive layer, he or she could sell them on the benefits of such a transformation IF it is truly in the best interests of the organization to go that route.

A safer (and often easier) stepping stone might be to shift the power balance from a weak matrix to at least a balanced if not a strong matrix as that would address many of the challenges a PM might face on a day-to-day basis without introducing new challenges such as the HR responsibilities which come in a project-oriented structure.

Kiron
I think the PM has to make a big effort to show the functional managers the benefit of a successful project to their operations. You have to answer their question: "What's in it for me?"

It helps if you present the project in the form of a business case.

I would advise against using the "personal favor" approach as this is a sign of weakness. - replace "Can you help me with [...]" to "Here's how I can help you achieve your objectives."
You assume becoming a projectized organization is the best way - for project managers since they then have positional power.

But maybe not for the organization, if
- still 80% of value is created by 'operations'
- allocating people to one project creates waste as they might be of greater value in more than 1 project
- the maturity of project managers is not such they can run a business (and create value) - PMs still are required to implement a solution, not to create business value (like profits, revenues, customer retention, etc) - they are just not trained for this and may not have the temperament for it

Another way is to move gradually towards projectized along the balanced and strong matrix path while the maturity of PMs grows, intentionally nurtured.

And the best way is that PMs learn how to influence without authority, which is a skill serving each leader well anyhow.
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
May 07, 2020 4:38 AM
Adrian Carlogea
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I was about to write a response but to a large degree you have already captured what I was about to write.

Regarding the maturity of the PMs, many companies hire them as fresh graduates. These Junior PM who may end up managing small projects at the beginning are literally not mature enough to be given formal authority over people that potentially have much more work experience then them.

The Junior PMs in time end up having more project management experience but they would never grow the domain knowledge needed to have formal authority over the organization.

So in my opinion a PM in a projectized organization must be an experienced individual contributor who has moved to management and has risen through the managerial ranks. Someone that is just an expert in project management should not be given formal authority over some parts of the organization, unless of course those "parts" are project management teams or departments.
Thomas makes some great points. One of the downsides of a purely projectized organization is that if people are dedicated full time to a project, they may not always have work to do during some periods of time, but you're still paying for them to wait until their tasks are ready to be worked.

I work at a massive aerospace manufacturing firm, where much of the work is operations based. If I am working smaller projects that last a few months and many people are heavily involved only during specific times, there is no way I could justify having a dedicated team. They're more of a balanced to weak matrix. If they are very large projects that could last years, a dedicated project team is usually formed.

If you want to move more to projectized, pick your battles and focus on the big jobs where you can show the benefits.

Another thing is to consider approaches that aren't straight out of a PM101 textbook. On my large projects, I will have certain people dedicated full time to a project, such as technology experts. They may hand off smaller work packages such as drafting revisions to a work cell which is much more of a weak matrix. That's totally fine. The PM doesn't need to oversee all the minor details. They can work primarily at the architectural level and allow the people closest to the minutia to make the decisions about the best way to write code or update parts lists.
May 06, 2020 9:51 AM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
You assume becoming a projectized organization is the best way - for project managers since they then have positional power.

But maybe not for the organization, if
- still 80% of value is created by 'operations'
- allocating people to one project creates waste as they might be of greater value in more than 1 project
- the maturity of project managers is not such they can run a business (and create value) - PMs still are required to implement a solution, not to create business value (like profits, revenues, customer retention, etc) - they are just not trained for this and may not have the temperament for it

Another way is to move gradually towards projectized along the balanced and strong matrix path while the maturity of PMs grows, intentionally nurtured.

And the best way is that PMs learn how to influence without authority, which is a skill serving each leader well anyhow.
I was about to write a response but to a large degree you have already captured what I was about to write.

Regarding the maturity of the PMs, many companies hire them as fresh graduates. These Junior PM who may end up managing small projects at the beginning are literally not mature enough to be given formal authority over people that potentially have much more work experience then them.

The Junior PMs in time end up having more project management experience but they would never grow the domain knowledge needed to have formal authority over the organization.

So in my opinion a PM in a projectized organization must be an experienced individual contributor who has moved to management and has risen through the managerial ranks. Someone that is just an expert in project management should not be given formal authority over some parts of the organization, unless of course those "parts" are project management teams or departments.
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1 reply by Peter Rapin
May 07, 2020 9:14 AM
Peter Rapin
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I would suggest that companies hiring fresh graduates as junior project managers are really assigning project administrators rather than managers regardless of the title applied. In my mind "manager" suggests authority.

I agree that a professional project manager can only truly function and advance in a projectized organization starting as a junior on smaller projects and progressing to project manager on large complex undertakings and ultimately project director maybe at the VP level.

In a purely production shop the role of project manager is, at best, a learning experience but typically time limited (duration of the project).
Hi Eddie,
A PM cannot do anything to change how an organisation is structured and how it operates. It depends on the strategic goals, which are then translated to the necessary organisational setup - departments, roles and responsibility, portfolio setup, projects, etc. You, or a PM does not have an influence on that level.
The best you can do in a weak project organisation is to utilise and master your collaboration and communication skills and most importantly - to stay professional. if you find that department heads and overall project maturity is far less that your level, use any opportunity to educate and increase awareness of project management theory, practices and terminology.
I worked for such company, and I know what you mean. What I did, I developed half a day workshop for senior leadership to explain the main differences between project and process (the strategic portfolio consisted of projects as well as processes improvements), the main terms and project life cycles, but most importantly - what is the role of the project sponsor, as this was my main goal, and this was what I wanted to improve. Give them awareness that hey too have a role in their projects, and they are the escalation level to the PM. I called it workshop, as training would have been opposed by them with the argument that they do not need training in project management.
So, use small steps and any opportunity you see to improve things around.
Regards,
Milena
Perhaps I do not answer your question but because I was envolved in leading this type of transformations let me say (including in my actual work place we transformed and we are using both models with focus on gain into agility). What you are talking about is to transform the enterprise architecture. In this case, about a component inside the business architecture: structure. Architecture of a business (a company could have more than one business defined into it) is creating taking into account the strategy. So, which is the strategy behind? Remember: projectized organizations are knowing as "homeless places" for people that work inside projects. I mean, when a project ends, people who work in this project has no other place to return inside the organization except a new project if available. So, it could be good when the strategy is to outsource the creation of solutions, mainly. If not, you are buying a problem because one of the key points is the knowledge will go out with the people.
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
May 07, 2020 8:40 AM
Adrian Carlogea
...
Hi Sergio,

I fully agree with you on the "homeless places" part. That's probably one of the main reasons why the projectized organization is not a good option for most companies.

The closest you can get to a projectized org is when a company needs a project to be delivered to it but the project is not in its area of competence, for example a railway company who wants a project to upgrade some of its tracks. In this case contingent workers are hired in some form (for instance provided by a contractor or consultancy or freelancers) that deliver the project. Still these contingent workers would never really be part of the organization, they would be part of their own organization or they would be freelancers.

When the company delivers projects with its own staff, in my opinion, the best option is the functional (matrix) organization. The functional departments are great as they can support all the projects in their area of competence and the specialists are all together and can be replaced between them on the projects.

I have seen some companies creating so called functional project teams which are teams inside functional departments. For example one company splited its Windows Team into two teams:
- a BAU Windows Team dealing exclusively with Support incidents
- a Projects Windows Team that was supporting all the Projects that required Windows work.

Both teams reported to a functional manager and PMs have no formal authority over the members of the Projects Windows Team.
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