The corporate triple, or matrix madness

 

Concerns of Project Managers

The Olde Curmudgeon

The other day a little man with a large MBA walked into my office and declared that I had been selected to develop the new Corporate Matrix Plan. I asked the little man, “Do you know what a Corporate Matrix Plan is?” After he had mumbled and stuttered for a few moments, it was clear that he didn't.

I asked him if he wanted a Corporate Matrix Plan. That would be a corporate plan for a matrix. Or, did he want me to create a Corporate Matrix Plan? In that case we would be dealing with a plan for a corporate matrix. Finally, I asked if he really wanted a Corporate Matrix Plan, which would of course be a matrix plan that was the property of the corporation. The little man responded to each question with a blank stare. “Perhaps you should discuss the matter with your boss,” I suggested. (I've always been a bit of a troublemaker!)

When he returned some hours later, I knew his boss didn't understand the problem either. He told the little man, “It doesn't matter, pick the one you like !”

Now, it is not this Mushroom's intent to be critical of matrix plans, matrix organizations, matrix organizers, or even of organized matrices. What really bugs me is the careless, if not capricious use, misuse, and abuse of words in the workplace. After all, most of the misnamed, silly, avant-garde, trendy fads and managerial nonsense that have come to pervade our professional lives are no doubt the results of the honest efforts of conscientious persons trying to meet real and pressing needs of some sort. I guess we must call that progress.

img

These notions come and go like the wind and the tide. They keep MBAs, managers, and administrators busy, off the streets and out of public houses during daytime hours. They also make the manufacturers of paper, typewriter ribbons, and photocopying machines very, very happy.

Most technical folk think of a matrix in mathematical terms. It is an n x m rectangular array of numbers. Matrices behave very much like the integers. They have a rich mathematical structure. They can be added, multiplied, and sometimes even divided. Moreover, the word matrix is a noun, not an adjective.

Institute

When the need for a management tool such as Matrix Organization was first perceived, why did the pioneers not give their invention a meaningful name. This would have eliminated all the concern about using nouns as verbs and mathematical entities as symbols for silliness. The inventors might have considered, “Functional Organization for Projects” (FOP); or perhaps “Project Organization by Function” (POF); or even “Project Orientation by Organizational Functionalization” (POOF). One can only wonder how long it would take “FOP, POF, POOF” to replace “TIC, TAC, TOE’ as the leading intellectual activity in the board rooms of great American corporations.

An appropriate and meaningfully descriptive name for a new and useful concept, would save many people, including this Mushroom, a great deal of consternation. Try it next time!

img

OCTOBER 1993

Advertisement

Advertisement

Related Content

  • PMI Case Study

    Fujitsu UK member content open

    This case study outlines the learning framework Fujitsu put in place to prepare project managers fully at the start of their careers.

  • Project Management Journal

    The Impact of Executive Coaching on Project Managers' Personal Competencies member content locked

    By Ballesteros-Sánchez, Luis | Ortiz-Marcos, Isabel | Rodríguez-Rivero, Rocío Personal competencies have been shown to be increasingly reliable predictors of successful project managers. This research studies whether executive coaching is effective in strengthening personal…

  • PM Network

    2018 Jobs Report member content open

    By Rockwood, Kate The outlook is better than it's been in years. The global economy is surging, boosting job markets across sectors and continents. The global GDP growth projection of 3.7 percent for this year…

  • PM Network

    Stop the turnover member content open

    By Kroll, Karen M. Employers take heed: as demand overtakes supply, project practitioners who aren't happy in their current positions will find plenty of opportunities to move on. This article discusses how…

  • PM Network

    No pain, no gain member content open

    By Scott, Lindsay Studying project failures provides us with the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others. However, what kind of effect do project failures have when interviewing for a new position? This…

Advertisement