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Feedback Please – Organisational Structure

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 12th October 2018

A weak area of mine and struggle to think of examples.

Q Explain these types of organisational structures when used in a project context: Functional, Project and Matrix (30 marks)

A Functional – This type of structure is organised around functional groups and is very structured and process heavy. It has clear reporting lines and accountability across the organisation, so people report to a functional line manager. Here key skills are maintained and developed because everyone works with people doing the same role, so, for example, all the engineering people are together in one function. There usually is little to no change in the organisational structure.

Project – In this type of structure, the project manager (PM) is in charge and will continue to do so for the duration of the project. The project manager is both the line manager and the project leader. Once the project is over, the PM and the team leave, taking with them the knowledge and specialist skills. For example in a construction firm building a bridge. Once the bridge is built, the team will then move on to the next project, leaving no knowledge or maintenance skills behind.

Matrix – This is the ideal type of structure as it is a balanced mixed of both functional and project. This usually delivers a combination of the strength of both functional and project. Here individuals would be managed by both line managers and PMs. This means that specialist skill is developed and retained and can be pulled in to help anywhere in the business. For example in Network Rail, we have both line and project managers. PMs can pull us into projects where our skills are required and our line manager looks after our development and business needs.

Q Explain 2 difficulties that a PM may experience when working in a matrix environment (20 marks)

A One difficulty could be the conflict of interest. This could be where an individual could be pulled in different directions by both managers due to a conflict in priorities. This can be confusing for people because they are unclear which work is the most important. For this reason, it is important that matrix organisation have good systems and processes in place to resolve these priority conflicts. This is closely linked to the portfolio management and deciding which projects should be completed within any investment period. Within Network Rail this portfolio planning is part of our control period planning

Another difficulty could be lack of communication. PMs need to be strong communicators and influencers in order to get the job done. They cannot rely on the line manager to resolve issues, especially project related. For some individuals, who are use to a functional organisation this change in culture can be very challenging. They find it difficult to communicate outside their function. As project managers, we need to be aware of the sensitivities and encourage cross-functional working within the matrix organisation.

(17 minutes)

  1. Paul says:

    It needs more detail so I have added it in italics.

  2. Student says:

    Hi Paul, thanks for taking time out to add more detail. For the first question I appear to be on the right path but missing a few key sentences to capture the marks.

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