Matrix Organizations LO24141

From: John H. Dicus (
Date: 03/04/00

Replying to LO24136 --

Re: Matrix Organizations LO24136

>I am currently involved in a project at the University of Bath
>Undergraduate Programme and we are looking at matrix organisational
>structures. We are essentally focusing on finding solutions for the well
>known problems that the matrix generates eg 'people problems'. I would
>welcome any ideas regarding this topic.
>"Jackie Guinness" <>

Hello Jackie,

Just yesterday I was browsing through my bookshelf and thumbed through a
book titled "Matrix," by Paul Lawrence and Stanley Davis (ISBN
0-201-01115-8, Addison-Wesley). Stan Davis is the author of a few other
books that contain some good insights. If my memory is not too rusty they
include "20-20 Vision," "Future Perfect," and "The monster Under The Bed."

Anyway, the authors make some good points regarding matrix setups
including human considerations, barriers to overcome, and tendencies for
the matrix structure to dissolve on its own.

I helped set up a matrix at NASA a number of years ago in the
aeropropulsion research arena when funding and advocacy was grim. I
remember someone once saying about war that If you lived you would never
be in a setting where you felt more alive. A matrix is a lot like that, I

If the people have other structures culturally ingrained, it will take
time and constant effort to slowly shift the thinking to where a martix
becomes natural. Before I left NASA, I moved to another group where the
day to day operation was said to be flexible and matrix-like, but was
really more traditional in terms of top-down control. It was hard to
"breathe" in that structure after having gotten used to the challenges and
opportunities afforded by the matrix.

One point the authors make in the book "Matrix," feels very right to me
based on my particular experience. And I'll put this into my own words.
Many people view a matrix in static terms. I know this may sound
paradoxical since I'm sure they expect work to ebb and flow on a regular
basis. I'm sure they expect to have constantly shifting priorities. But
by "static," I mean they don't seem to realize how much energy each person
consumes when they are in the thick of things -- sort of like a flow

It doesn't seem that people consider the dynamics of the system. Davis
and Lawrence suggest that there should be periods of rest punctuated by
highly spontaneous, synergistic output emerging as the need arises. Then
the system returns to rest in wait of another call for response. If the
amount of rest time drops below a certain level (percentage-wise) then the
matrix is not sustainable, and instead of running on the creative energy
of the group it begins to deplete the group, draining their marrow in the

If you'd like to talk off-line, I be happy to. Good luck.

Warm regards,

John Dicus

John Dicus  |  CornerStone Consulting Associates
-- Bringing Organizations To Life --
2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City, OH 44280
800-773-8017  |  330-725-2728 (2729 fax)  |

[Host's Note: In assoc with, this link...

Matrix by Stanley M. Davis, Paul R. Lawrence, Michael Beer

Great authors. A 1978 book. ..Rick]

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