What is a Matrix Organization Structure?

matrix-organization-structureA matrix organization structure is a type of an organization structure, which takes the best features of both worlds; i.e. the projectized organization structure and the functional organization structure.

In my previous two blogs, I have discussed about the projectized organization structure and the functional organization structure. Since, now you have studied the both types of organization structure, it is time to move on to the matrix type of organization structure.

The PMBOK Guide defines matrix organization as the blend of the projectized and the functional organization structure.

In matrix organization structure, the knowledge and skills of the talented employees could be shared between the functional departments and the project management teams, as needed.

Here, the employee generally works under two bosses. The authority of the functional manager flows vertically downwards and the authority of the project manager flows sideways. Since, the authorities flow downward and sideways, this structure is called the Matrix Organization Structure.

In matrix organization structure, usually employees have two bosses to whom they may have to report. Which boss is more powerful depends upon the type of matrix structure.

Matrix organizational structure exists in large multi-projects organizations so that they can move or relocate employees to any team wherever their services are needed. Matrix structure has the flexibility of applying the organization’s talent where it is needed. Here, employees are considered to be shared resources between the project teams and the functional units.

Matrix organization structure can be further divided into three categories; e.g.

1.    Strong Matrix
2.    Balanced Matrix, and
3.    Weak Matrix.

Strong Matrix

In strong matrix, most authority and power lies with the project manager. Here, the project manager has a full time role; he controls the project budget, and he has full time project management administrative staff under him. Strong matrix structure has a lot of common characteristics of the projectized organization.

Balanced Matrix

In balanced matrix, power is shared between the functional manager and the project manager. Although, the project manager has full time role, he has only part time project management administrative staff under him. In a balanced matrix both managers control the project budget.

Weak Matrix

In a weak matrix, the project manager has a part time role with very limited power and authority. His role will be more like a coordinator or an expediter. Weak matrix structure is very close to the functional organization structure. In a weak matrix structure, the functional manager controls the project budget.

Advantages of the Matrix Organization Structure

Followings are a few advantages of the matrix organization structures:

  • The main benefit of matrix organization is that highly skilled and capable resources can be shared between the functional units and important strategic projects.
  • Communication is smooth across the boundaries.
  • It is a good environment for professionals to develop their career.
  • Project team can get the highly skilled personnel they require.
  • People can be selected based on skills and suitability.
  • Employees have job security.
  • Typically the efficiency of matrix organizations is higher.

Disadvantages of the Matrix Organization Structure

Some disadvantages of matrix organization structure are as follows:

  • Employees may have to report to two bosses, which can add confusion, and conflicts may arise, particularly in the balanced matrix environment where both bosses have equal authority and power.
  • Conflicts may arise between the bosses regarding the power and authority.
  • Employees may become confused regarding their roles and responsibilities, especially when they are assigned to a task which is somewhat different than what they were doing.
  • Sometimes unclear priorities may also confuse the employees.
  • Generally matrix organizations have more managers, which make overhead cost very high.
  • Many times in matrix organizations, workload is high. Employees have to do their regular work, along with the additional project related tasks.

How to overcome disadvantages of the Matrix structure

The above discussed disadvantages of matrix organization structure can be overcome by following the guidelines given below.

  • Well-defined and strong communication is very important to gain support from executives, managers, and employees. Organizations must communicate their vision, objectives and goal with the employees.
  • There must be close cooperation between the project manager and the functional manager to avoid confusion and conflicts.
  • Conflict between the project manager and the functional manager must resolve as early as possible, and in private.
  • Roles and responsibilities must be documented and clearly communicated to avoid the confusion.

This was all about the Matrix Organization Structure.

This is an important topic for the PMP Exam. You may see one or two questions in your test from this topic.


  1. Terrell Smith says

    Hi, just checking to see if you have opportunities for PM or BA instructors/consultants. If so let me know and I can send you a resume. I have been doing both virtual and classroom training over the past 10 + years.

    Terrell Smith, PMP, CBAP, MPA

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Sorry Terrell, I don’t provide training to PMP aspirants. I think you should contact simplilearn or PM Study etc for training opportunities.

  2. says

    Good post, thanks

    A matrix structure is not only for projects and exists anywhere that people have more than one formal boss. Its the structure of choice for large complex orgnaizations everywhere.

    For more on the matrix you might enjoy my new book “Making the Matrix Work – how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity”

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Hello Kevan,

      Yes, you’re right that matrix structure everywhere and surely I’ll look into your book once I get the time.

    • Fahad Usmani says

      You can refer the PMBOK Guide 4th edition, page 28, article 2.4.2 to see diagrams for matrix type of organization structure.

  3. says

    I think it is important to remember that organizational designs (like a Matrix) are only as good as the balance that a company has between the organizational design and the contextual organizational culture in which the design is being implemented…great designs often fail because the (as Handy calls it) the balance (of the God’s) does not support the culture…which in turn…does not underpin the proposed organizational design…but culture is difficult to get your hands around…Talk to me if you have any thoughts here…or need some consulting help…

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