Making The Matrix Work

Jay Galbraith began writing about the Matrix organization back in 1970’s building on work done by John Mee and others. Over the next 10-15 years or so the Matrix became popular as the needs of large multinational companies and conglomerates became more complex. The tide then turned as large, multi-buisness companies slimmed down and firms were encouraged to focus on their core competences adn in many cases, more traditional functional organizations seemed to become increasingly popular.

Over the last ten years, the increasing pace of globalization and its resulting complexity appears to have brought the Matrix back as many companies have turned to the Matrix organization as a model to deal with the challenge of running a global business. Such organizations typically have Senior Managers running certain geographies while others are responsible for global product units and still others manage global functions such as Finance, Human Resources, Purchasing, etc. Certain organizations even have fourth or fifth dimensions with Global Account Managers for specific customers or designated people overlooking concepts such as technologies or shared services.

In a global organization many of these people will come from different countries and are likely to have strong cultural differences which are likely to be more powerful than the corporate culture which  they will share to a larger or lessor extent depending on their time of service, the strength of the corporate culture, and whether the company has grown through acquisitions or organic growth as well as other factors.

Senior Managers holding one dimension of the matrix might find themselves in conflict with priorities originating from one of their colleagues at the senior level, who is responsible for another dimension of the Matrix.

My view is that such complex organizational structures are very difficult to manage and together with former Tetrapak CEO, Nick Shreiber, I have written an article in IESE Insight which summarizes what the whole  idea is about. The course combines my material with a multidisciplinary team of IESE professors and guest speakers to help manager better understand the problems they face and  think through what is required to make such organizations perform.

The program has been held each year in New York City and the next edition is scheduled for the end of March 2019 in Barcelona for the first time.

I have also conducted several management meetings on this topic for companies which are struggling with it.


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