Have you ever managed a project in an unstructured company, or maybe even in a very structured one but it just seemed like the environment was caustic for your project.
The organisational environment within which a project is performed will influence the project. The culture, style and structure of the organisation as well as the organisation’s project management maturity and systems will impact on project success. These factors are known as Enterprise Environmental Factors.
It is very unlikely that business owners will set their company environment up for projects to fail but oftentimes that is exactly what they do when they do not adopt the appropriate organizational structures to support projects. An Organisation’s structure is one of the key influences that impact on project performance.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) discusses a number of organisational structures. They include:
― Weak Matrix
― Balanced Matrix
― Strong Matrix
― Projectized and
Do you know the structure your organisation runs and can you tell how the structure impacts on projects in your organisation? Let’s examine these structures and how they may impact on your project outcomes
The Functional Organisation
This is the typical structure for most organisations. Here however, the Project Manager (PM) will usually struggle because he has next to no power.
In fact in such a structure, the PM is likely to be operating as an Expediter….. a nice name for an errand boy/girl.
An organisation structured in this format is not project focused and if they actually run lots of projects, they ought to have a rethink.
The Weak Matrix Organisation
The Weak matrix is the first of the matrix structures.
The matrix structures are an attempt to accommodate projects within an organisation without totally jettisoning the functional structure. Other structures in the matrix category include the balanced and strong matrix structures
If you operate in a weak matrix organisation as a PM, you would have minimal power and will report to a functional manager. This means project objectives will still be acquiescent to functional/operational objectives. The PM is typically operating as a Project Coordinator; this suggests that he has some decision making ability and may be reporting to a functional manager that is quite senior within the organization.
Balanced Matrix Organisation
As the name suggests, there is a balance of power, priorities, resource availability, etc between the functional (operational) goals and project goals in the organization
Complexities arise here because the PM and Functional Managers are likely to be constantly in conflict. Interpersonal skills are required by the PM to navigate the landmines that are bound to be encountered in this environment.
Most organisations that have realised the need to succeed at projects while running operations exist here.
Strong Matrix Organisation
The focus in such organisations is primarily on projects and the functional roles exist essentially to support projects.
The PM now is now empowered has resources are available. The PM reports to a Manager of PMs as such conflicts with Functional Managers are essentially gone.
Projects in a strong matrix environment is very unlikely to struggle with resource availability or control, schedule conflict, etc
As an organization becomes fully projectised, the organisation becomes fully project focused and only project teams exist in the organization. The downside of the projectised structure is that project teams “have no home”. This suggests that team members will not have functional roles to return to within the organization when projects are done as functional teams do not exist in the organization.
Here PMs have absolute authority and the organisation is 100% focused on projects (which is great for projects), you will need to reconvene your team every time you want to start a project as project teams have no functional roles to return to when projects are done. It is this challenge matrix structures help us to solve
Essentially, the way your organisation is structured can significantly impact on your project performance. Issues that can arise based on structural challenges range from complexities in communication, to challenges in approvals, access to resources, ability to adequately motivate your team and get them to align with your project goals, schedule conflicts and on and on.
While adopting the appropriate structure that will support projects for your organisation is not all that is required to ensure project success, it is definitely a good start.
It is important therefore that project managers understand the influences that the structure of their organisation will have on their projects and adopt a strategy that will ensure they succeed irrespective of the existing structure particularly if they are unable to influence a change in structure.