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I saw this image where there are nine managers, one supervisor, and one guy doing all of the work on a project, and something about it rang true. I've worked in two organisations that attempted to implement a matrix style of project management.

I've seen this go very wrong, with both places ending up with nearly equal hands off headcount to hands on.

How can this be avoided? What can management do to avoid an organisational structure where there is too little leadership and too much management in comparison to those tasked with the work? What checks and balances are required?

Matrix Management

  • Do you have a specific question about a problem you're currently facing? As written, this seems over-broad and is likely to generate discussion rather than a targeted answer. See pm.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask for details. – Todd A. Jacobs Jul 29 '13 at 11:35
  • No, its pretty specific. Best practices? Read the title? – Dave Hillier Jul 29 '13 at 13:15
  • I would expect an answer to this question to list the maxims for organising a project team structure in this way. – Dave Hillier Jul 29 '13 at 13:21
  • This is a list-generating question. That means it is too broad, invites opinions instead of canonical answers, or is likely to generate answers that are all equally valid. Such questions are off-topic everywhere on the Stack Exchange network. – Todd A. Jacobs Jul 29 '13 at 13:59
  • Hi @CodeGnome and Dave Hiller, I just tried an edit to see if we can make this a bit more answerable with facts, references, and specific expertise with less focus on list-generation. Dave, I'm thinking this is what you're looking for? If not, can you edit further? The image is awesome and really highlights the problem in matrix organizations, we just need to get the right keywords in here so we get more viewers from Google searches. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Jul 30 '13 at 2:30
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You like it or not you as a project manager need to manage Risk, HR, communication, security etc. The Image you posted is exaggeration, as I feel all the managers shown in the picture are functions which need to be carried out by project manager.

As for project management is concerned, it should deal in managing requirement, risk, cost, communicaiton, HR and others.

The ratio of workers(developers) to team leads to managers will differ from industry to industry. In my company the goal is to have 5 developers, 2 team lead and 1 project manager ratio. Various functions mentioned earlier in the answer are managed by project manager. He might take help from team leads or liase with external parties (like HR manager, facilities manager) which are shared across various Projects.

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I have worked in a number of environments where matrix management was used. In large organizations, I believe it is the only way to provision multi-disiplinary projects. Where I have seen it break down, is the project team members fail to maintain contact with their practice groups.

Matrix management comes with additional overhead. This needs be allowed for the project plan(s) so that team members have time to spend their practice groups. The practice groups need to have some way to engage their members who are assigned to projects.

Although some projects may require project specific training, I believe training should flow through the practice group.

It may help if project managers and practice managers meet regularly to exchange feedback. Perhaps a daily or weekly scrum would work. Regular feedback from both managers could result. I've never been a fan formal review practices, which tend to provide feedback to long after the event to be effective.

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