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There is a matrix but it is unbalanced This is by far the most common scenario we face and it makes perfect sense.  The matrix model carries some inherent conflicts, so we often find the matrix either weighted towards the department with a weak PMO or weighted towards the PMO with weak department heads. Or (and this is by far the most challenging) we find the matrix weighted towards some departments but not others and some project managers but not others, so that the center of gravity in the organization is hard to come by.

Deploying the Microsoft EPM solution in these environments means doing some inventory and discovery work.  Where have processes been established that are successful?  Where have processes failed?  What is working at the centralized project management level which we can leverage to deploy Project Server and what is not?

In these types of deployments, we need to be very careful to pick and choose the elements of the EPM Solution we want to deploy first and whom to deploy them to.  Deploying in a phased approach in this kind of scenario is critical, as a big-bang approach is almost never successful here.

The Matrix Challenge

For those who have grown up knowing only matrix structured organizations, you might not even think to wonder whether it’s a good structure or bad or think of what is strong or weak about this kind of management.  There is a fundamental challenge with the matrix organization that many don’t even question:  it is conflict-by-design.  The structure sets up two opposing forces: the Department heads and the Project Managers.  We’d never say this out loud of course, but just looking at the structure makes it self-evident.  

The goal of the department head is to watch out for the staff members in the department.  They want to make sure their people are productive, skilled, satisfied employees.  If we were to leave the organization just up to the department heads, we’d end up with delighted employees who were well-trained, not too overworked, and well compensated, but who didn’t produce much.

The goal of the project manager is to watch out for the delivery of the project.  They want to make sure their project is done as quickly and cheaply as possible while maintaining the scope and quality that were defined at the project’s inception.  If we were to leave the organization just up to the project managers, we’d end up with some projects getting done quickly but a huge turnover in staff as we burned out employees in the name of completing the project.

The idea of the Matrix Organization is that setting up a conflict between these two forces will happily balance the organization between productivity and employee satisfaction.  The premise, though, is that department heads and project managers are ultimately all pretty much as powerful as each other.

The challenge, of course, is that people are not created equal.  There will always be some project manager who is more experienced than another; some department head who is more skilled than the next.  This lack of equality throws the Matrix out of balance on the first day.  Just realizing that the exception is a balanced Matrix Organization often is enough to have PMOs and organizers think about how to maintain order, and that can be a good thing.

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