A multimatrix approach to project management


By David N. Burt

Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, U.S.A.


Planning for the addition and activation of a shipyard employing 5,000 men is a challenging task, especially in a developing country. A multi-matrix program office is proposed to oversee the activation program.


Planning for the construction and activation of a shipyard in a developing country is an incredible task. Resource constraints are the norm. Not only are the requisite infrastructure and trained and experience pool of labor absent, but even fully qualified personnel to plan for and manage the activation process are in extremely short supply.

The activation program for a shipyard is the overall process of planning, scheduling, coordinating, controlling of the many projects from their inception to their completion. This planning process is a complex and multifaceted program. It requires the design of a systematic method of anticipating future conditions and coordinating the employment of resources in a manner which enhances achievement of established goals and objectives. It involves not only the coordination of many departments within the Navy organization (personnel, training, engineering, logistics, and technical directors, etc.) but also many other defense organizations, government ministries (Energy, Labor, Education, Road and Transportation, and Communication), and contractors. This program is a collection of non-repetitive projects which are generally viewed as being one-time efforts. The operation of each project is a fairly involved mixture of series and parallel activities, and must have a significant interplay of human skills, as well as other resources such as material and facilities. The duration of the overall program could take years. In fact, it is probably the sum of the durations for the longest projects which are in series. It is recognized that during this long-range program many changes, uncertainties and external activities will occur. Changes press the organization from forces outside as well as inside. Environmental (economic, social, political, and technological) trends must be noted and their influences incorporated into policies and practices.

The overall activation program consists of the two major groups of projects as tabulated below:

1) Construction and Support Group 2) Shipyard Activation Group
a) Housing and community facilities a) Personnel: recruitment and training
b) Industrial utility support (electrical power and water, etc.) b) Supply support: raw materials, spare parts, office equipment, etc.
c) Land routes and railroads c) Transportation and handling
d) General communication (Post, Telephone & Telegraph d) Test and support equipment
e) The shipyard, port facilities, docks, and other M.I.S. support facilities e) Technical data and M.I.S.
f) Community transportation f) Maintenance planning

It is important to realize that some of the major tasks in the construction groups are outside the organization’s authority. For example, the utility support 1(b), land routes and railroads 1(c), and communication 1(d) are the responsibility of the Energy Ministry, Roads and Transportation Ministry, and Communication Ministry (P.T.T.), respectively. The management of all these different but interrelated projects requires establishing a strong and centralized program office, which would be responsible for the coordination, direction and control of the total program.


Some of the major activities related to the responsible functional departments/agencies are:

Personnel and Training (2a)

Personnel, recruitment and training are generally the responsibilities of the Director of Personnel (Navy). The actual training shall be performed by the Navy Training Centers and Technical/Vocational schools of the Navy. However, due to the magnitude of the task, the assistance and coordination of other government agencies (Education and Labor Ministries) and also commercial institutions must be obtained.

Construction of Facilities (la and le)

The Civil Engineering Director (CED) (Navy) shall generally be responsible for all construction work, which is normally contracted. The following are the kinds of buildings and facilities the CED would be responsible for:

a. Industrial area: shops, offices, jetties, drydocks, warehouses, dispensary, rest and recreation facilities, etc.

b. Community area: housing, schools, health clinics, recreation facilities (e.g., clubs, libraries, sport stadiums, swimming pools, etc.) religious buildings, markets, etc.

Test Equipment and Supply Support (2b and 2d)

This area shall generally be the responsibility of the Director of Logistics (Navy). It includes all the responsibilities for items of test and support equipment and the supply support.

Utility Support (lb)

Utility support is generally broken into two areas:

(a) The main electrical power supply and the fresh water system with its distribution throughout the base and community. These areas shall be the responsibility of the Energy Ministry and its local department within the province.

(b) The alternative or emergency electrical power supply 36 and distilled water distribution systems, throughout the base and the industrial area shall be the responsibility of the Civil Engineering Director (Navy).

Roads and Railroads (1c and 1f)

Land routes are separated into two areas:

(a) The roads and access routes (land and railroads) in the local communities and towns, and roads and access roads linking them to other cities and industrial centers in the country, shall be the responsibility of the Road and Transportation Ministry.

(b) The roads within the confines of the industrial facilities and Navy community shall be the responsibility of the Civil Engineering Director (CED).

Transportation and Handling (2c)

Transportation and handling (an element of Integrated Logistics Support (ILS)) for the shipyard shall be the responsibility of the Director of Logistics.

General Communication (1d)

The general communication here may be divided into two parts:

(a) External Communications which includes Telephone, Telex, Telegram systems, etc. as links between the base and other cities, and military establishments shall be the responsibility of the Communication (PTT) Ministry.

(b) Internal Communication (Telephone, intercomm, etc.) within and between the shipyard and the naval base which shall be the responsibility of the C.E.D. with the assistance and input from Director of Operations and Technical Director.

Shipyard Operational Requirements (2d and 2f)

Preparation of shipyard organizational structures, and the Management Informational Systems suitable for the operation of the naval shipyard, should normally be the responsibilities of the Technical Director (Navy).


Organizational structures can vary from the pure functional model at one extreme to the pure project model at the other extreme. The matrix structure rests somewhere between these models on the continuum, and has characteristics of both. A brief description of each of the organization alternatives follows:

a. Functional Organization: The functional structure is also known as the traditional or bureaucratic structure. It is the most prevalent organizational structure in the world today. This is the basic hierarchical structure with top management on the upper level of the chart and middle and lower management spreading out down the pyramid. The organization is usually broken down into different functional departments, such as personnel and training, supply, research and development, engineering, administration, and finance. This hierarchical structure was originally based on such management theories as specialization, line and staff relations, authority and responsibility and span of control. It is generally considered easier to manage specialists if they are grouped together and if the department head has the same training and experience in the particular field. A primary characteristic of the functional organization is the division of labor into specialized groups. Its organization has a number of weaknesses. For example, when involved in multiple projects, conflicts may arise over the relative priorities of these projects in the competition for resources. Also, the functional department often places more emphasis on its own specialty than on the overall goals of the organization. This creates integration and communication problems that hinder the progress of projects.

b. Project Organization: The project structure emphasizes the project rather than the specialized functions. That is, all the resources of the various functional specialists necessary to attain a specific objective are set up in a self-contained unit headed by a program/project manager. This individual is given considerable authority over the project and may acquire resources from inside or outside the overall organization. The internal organizational structure of the project organization are the singleness of purpose and the unity of command. Informal communication and clear understanding is effective in a closely knit team, and the program manager has all the personnel resources required under his direct control. The project structure is optimal for very large projects. The major disadvantage of such an approach is that it requires a large number of full time personnel. Such an investment may be appropriate for a small number of critically important programs. However, resource limitations preclude the use of the project organization approach for all programs. Thus, for a large-scale program such as development or activation of a shipyard even though this single purpose project organization may seen suitable for the choice of organizational structure, the personal constraints may preclude such a luxury.

c. Matrix Organization: The matrix structure tries to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of both the project and the functional structure. It retains the functional specialties and overlays a project organization with the single program manager. The project organization emphasizes completion of the program, while the functional organization pursues the various specialties. The major benefits of the matrix organization are the various specialties. The major benefits of the matrix organization are the balancing of objectives, the coordination across functional department lines, and the visibility of the program objectives to the project coordinators. The major disadvantage of this form of organization is that an individual is working for two superiors. He is reporting vertically to his functional department head and horizontally to the program manager. The project/ program managers often feel that they have little authority over the functional departments. The functional department head also feels that the project coordinator is interfering in his job. The solution to this problem is the clear definition of roles, responsibility and authority. A coordinator specifies what and when a task is to be done and the functional departments are responsible for how it should be done.


No single perfect or ideal organizational structure for managing all programs exists. The functional, the project, and the different matrix structures all have strengths and weaknesses. The final choice should come after weighing various factors: the nature of the task, the needs of the organization, the environment of the program, and the cultural and social behavior of those who are going to operate it. To properly manage such a complex program, an organizational structure should be set up, to be able to plan, direct, coordinate and control all the tasks involved to meet the stated objectives. Considering the complexity of the task and the constraints for qualified personnel, a matrix form of organization probably is the most suitable for this program office structure. Figure 1 shows a multi-matrix organizational structure proposed for the program office. It consists of;

(a) An internal matrix pattern within the program office. That is the interaction between the Director of Plans and Programs, and the Director of Program Requirements, and Director of Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) and other managers. (The responsibilities of the Directors of Plans and Programs and of Program Requirements are considered self-evident.) The responsibilities of the Director of Integrated Logistics Support include personnel and training, supply support, facilities, transportation and handling, test and support equipment, technical data, and maintenance planning. The object of I.L.S. is to assure that effective logistic support is planned, acquired, and managed as an integrated whole.

(b) An external (first) organizational format between the Program Office Directors and the Navy’s traditional functional departments (Directors of: personnel, logistics, plans and budgets, operation, and civil engineering, and technical directors) also is on a matrix approach.

(c) An external (second) pattern of interactions exists between the Director of Plans and Programs, Director of Program Requirements and Director of ILS with other ministries (Energy, Roads and Transportation, Labor and Communications) and other government agencies.

(d) Yet a third external structural interaction exists between the Program Directors and Government Ministries with the many contractors, consultants and suppliers. Figure 2 indentifies the accountability and responsibility of management in this matrix organization for representative functions and tasks. This matrix accountability and responsibility chart shows who participates, and to what degree, when an activity is performed or a decision is made. It shows the extent or type of authority exercised by each manager in performing an activity in which two or more managers have overlapping authority and responsibility. It clarifies the authority relationships that arise when executives share common work.


Recognizing the essentiality of close control and coordination for a project of the size of activating a new shipyard, a matrix approach to project management is proposed to oversee all of the required activities. Due to resource constraints, a multi-matrix organizational approach is proposed. Delineation of accountability and responsibility is a necessary prerequisite for success with such an organizational approach. A chart depicting such accountability and responsibility is proposed to insure success.

Figure 1. Program Office Multi-Matrix Organizations

Figure 1. Program Office Multi-Matrix Organizations

Matrix Authority Responsibility Chart(MARC)

Figure 2. Matrix Authority-Responsibility Chart(MARC)



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