Structured Networks: Towards the Well-Designed Matrix

Many companies face market and competitive conditions that have led them to adopt multidimensional, matrix organisation structures. But these matrix structures have often proved difficult for the managers working within them. This article puts forward the concept of a "structured network" as a means of overcoming the problems typically associated with traditional matrix organisations. In structured networks, the organisational units retain considerable autonomy, but collaborate extensively through voluntary networking between units. The organisation is largely self-managing, but has sufficient structure, process and hierarchy to achieve coordination and implement the corporate strategy. The objective is to obtain the benefits of interdependence that are designed into a typical matrix, but without sacrificing clear responsibilities, managerial initiative and accountability, speed of decision-making and lean hierarchy. To design a structured network, it is necessary to achieve clarity about each unit's role without hemming managers in with too much detail. It is also necessary to support mutual learning without compromising distinctive differences, to defend specialist culture units from domination by mainstream units, to promote cooperation without embarking on unnecessary synergy initiatives, to recognise shared responsibilities without diluting unit accountability, and to encourage the corporate hierarchy to add value without creating redundant overheads and interference. Organisations designed in this way will have enough, but not too much structure.

Goold, M. & Campbell, A. (2003) Structured Networks: Towards the Well-Designed Matrix, Long Range Planning, Vol. 36, October, pp. 427 - 439

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