Matrix organization

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Sketch of a matrix organization

A matrix organization is a possible structural principle in the organization of a company , according to which competence and responsibility can be established. The management function is divided into two independent, equal dimensions (e.g. performance and products). The employees are at the same time in two equal instruction relationships, e.g. As they are the heads of the execution-related departments procurement, production and sales, while the object-related product managers assumed. A matrix organization is thus a form of multiline organization .

In practice, however, the crossover of responsibilities often leads to problems that are so great that as a rule the authority to issue instructions (which is ultimately decisive) is limited to a single line, i.e. each employee has only one superior who is directly authorized to issue instructions. The overlapping responsibilities of the other line are then mostly resolved in that employees are temporarily released for the other line on a task-related basis; the proportion of working time that has to be allocated for this is then usually negotiated between the superiors of the respective lines.

The common and often very successful implementation of a matrix organization today distinguishes between the disciplinary line function , usually shown in the vertical, and the technical authority to issue instructions in the horizontal. The technical management is very often project-related and therefore designed for a specific project period.

Full definition

The matrix organization is one of the possible models for organizing job relationships in a company and is similar to project management . This is not about regulating individual work processes , but rather the framework structure that applies to all work processes, often also referred to as the organizational structure . The matrix organization is a multi-line system with simultaneous task and object structure. The structure of activities, i.e. the structure according to functional areas such as procurement , production , marketing , typically forms the vertical dimension (line instance ), while the object structure , e.g. the structure according to markets, products or regions, forms the horizontal dimension (matrix instance). This arrangement creates the name-giving matrix. The matrix organization brings high or new requirements especially for:

  • Senior managers as well as managing directors, as they are responsible for two lines of leadership.
  • Matrix managers with equal rights who are entrusted with the coordination.
  • Employees reporting twice because they have to report to two superiors.

With matrix organization, the project manager leads the project team and the disciplinary superior (HR manager) determines the resources and technology.

Strong matrix

The strong matrix is ​​similar to the project-based organization. The project manager can determine the resources and the project is not outsourced from the higher-level organization.

Weak matrix

The weak matrix is ​​similar to the subject-related organization. Here only the project manager is assigned full-time for the project and the specialist departments provide services for the project.

Advantages and disadvantages


The advantages that can be mentioned include:

  • shorter communication paths,
  • flexible consideration of competition-relevant aspects,
  • the specialization of the management function with simultaneous relief of the top management,
  • Problem solving taking into account different points of view and the priority of professional competence over hierarchical position as well as the promotion of teamwork .

From the employee's point of view, there are further advantages:

  • If the matrix is ​​implemented appropriately, the employee is subject to close technical control on the horizontal level
  • A permanent contact person is available in the line organization who can act and mediate in the interests of the employee and his development
  • the social environment is promoted.

This clear separation of technical and disciplinary competencies makes the management of larger organizations easier. It is also easier to find managers with a clear focus on technical / content-related or disciplinary management tasks than all-round managers who can do both in one person.

A significant advantage of the matrix organization is that it is supposed to cope better with fluctuations in workload , as it is related to the basic organization, the employees do not have to be completely separated from the primary organization and the existing specialists can only be used for the respective project as required .

This advantage is only possible with a flexible number of employees during the entire course of the project. In practice, however, the fact that specialists remain in the basic organization can result in increased planning, management and overhead costs during specialist project breaks, so that the involvement of external external specialists is often more efficient, more flexible and therefore cheaper than using existing, possibly overburdened staff can be from the grassroots organization.


The disadvantages and dangers of organizing job relationships include:

  • Conflicts of competence , d. H.
    • Power struggles and unsatisfactory compromises,
    • Attribution problems of successes and failures,
    • a lack of transparency and necessary, clear rules on competencies,
  • a high communication effort,
  • additional planning effort and high overhead costs during project breaks
  • cumbersome and protracted decision-making,
  • the uncertainty of the execution sites as a result of multiple subordination
  • challenging performance control
    • Decrease in willingness to perform if this is not recognized by the line management
    • The workload of the employee is difficult to assess from the outside, as the overall picture is often not available

In addition, the employee can also feel frustrated if he has to meet incompatible requirements from the project and basic organization as well as from other superiors and feels overwhelmed by this. This multiple exposure is often cited as a source of burnout syndrome by those affected.


This model is mainly used in large companies, where at least two structural dimensions are important for competitiveness - this is often the case with internationally active companies. The matrix organization is often used to supplement the line organization with additional coordination-relevant aspects.

The long-term goals of a plannable, managed and superordinate corporate development can often only be implemented with increased effort in a matrix organization. That is why matrix organizations are used particularly successfully in project-oriented industries such as construction, vehicle development and in profit centers without sustainable corporate goals.

In administration and in mass production (e.g. large bakeries), however, pure matrix organizations are rarely found.


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