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Create a Hybrid Organization

The mixing of project teams with specialist teams, and hierarchies with networks, can be called a hybrid organization. It is said that hybrid organizations avoid the disadvantages of both functional teams in a purely hierarchical environment and autonomous project teams in a purely networked environment. Companies with less rigid cultures, many projects, and the need for speed, typically arrive at hybrid solutions [Testa 2009:370] [Reinertsen 1997:106].

Some forms of hybrid organizations are called matrix organizations. But although I've used that name in the past, I prefer not to use it anymore. In the available literature on this topic, the term matrix organization for many people seems to imply two organizational "dimensions": line management and project management. Some authors describe the "problems" of matrix organizations, which are conflicts of authority between line managers and project managers, the question of who is the real boss, nasty political situations, and a perceived overhead in the number of managers. [Jones 2001]

Some authors report problems with morale in matrix organizations. If the project manager is in control, the line manager feels demoralized for having responsibility but no control. And it is the same the other way around, with "strong" line managers and "weak" project managers. But I believe all that is just a big misunderstanding. One shouldn't blame the chainsaw for holding it at the wrong end.

The reported problems with matrix organizations are a result of incorrectly implementing hybrid organizations. In a proper implementation, there is one and only one line of authority, and it flows through the hierarchy of line managers. Project managers are there to serve the teams, not to control them. Project managers are there to manage projects, not people. I am convinced that the position of project managers should be no different than that of software architects and QA managers, who all have their own responsibilities. By the way, this also makes it clear that there are usually more than two "dimensions" in a hybrid organization. Only one line goes up (through line management), but many lines go sideways.

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