The design of your organization may be weighing you down. Is it bringing your organization down?

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Does the matrix you have to work through to get things done to drive you crazy? Does it make things difficult or does it drive collaboration and better solutions?  I hate it when roles and accountabilities are squishy.  “Sorry I can’t help you out with that because I already report to two other bosses”. 

The reality is, people report to multiple bosses and have their priorities constantly reshuffled.  Unfortunately, time is spent trying to figure out what to work on next, rather than doing the work.  This phenomenon really gets in the way when we are undergoing a change or transformation. To be successful, we need to be clear on what, how, and who is doing what. 

Constantly reprioritizing or holding people accountable for unrealistic ‘stretch targets’ doesn’t work.  You can only pull a rubber band so far before it snaps.  The challenge is to design things so that you can actually do more with less.  This starts with ensuring that anything that is undertaken clearly and directly aligns with your strategy and change effort.

What is a Matrix?

Matrix organization structures can make people cringe. Some people tell us they hate the ‘matrix’ as it can create ambiguity and blur the lines of accountability. Others see a matrix as the answer to getting around or even eliminating silos. Regardless of your experience working in a matrix organization, almost everyone has a clear point of view.

“Who do you report to …? Well on project X, I report to Fred and on my other project I report to Sue, but for my day-to-day role I report to Sally, who works three States away.”

Sound familiar? it often feels like everyone seems to report to everyone else.  A Matrix Organizational Structure is the arrangement of people in an organization depends on how they report to one another.

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Imagine what happens to people when they are in multiple boxes. Not Fun!

Old is Out, New is In

In today’s day and age, the question of organizational structure has never been more important. Companies are investing tons of money in transformation. Frequently, the old structures just don’t work anymore. Traditional geographic, product and functional structures fail when their customers need to interact with them across platforms (e.g. phone, web, apps). 

The new market purchases products and services differently depending on where and what the customer relationship looks like. Large businesses fail when it comes to customers, the people demand a flexible experience that acknowledges their value while providing many options of how to interact with you.

When you are implementing a large-scale business or digital transformation, how do you determine the organizational structure? As transformation occurs, some processes are eliminated or automated, while other new processes are created. There may even be a need for entirely new business capabilities to drive unique ways to differentiate in the market.

Stop Following Competitors

The old school will tell you to bring in the organization design experts and have them ‘benchmark’ and look at best practices. As if looking at your competition will help! How are you going to deliver differentiation in the market if you run your business just like everyone else? Especially when it interfaces with the rest of your business, which shouldn’t be like anyone else! 

Here’s a pro tip.  If you begin to adopt some of your competition’s best practices, they will have already evolved and changed by the time you implement the ‘old’ practices that they have abandoned. With this strategy, even with critical thinking involved, You’ll constantly play catch-up.

See it a bit differently, best practices and benchmarking will at best get you to par if you can execute immediately. At worst, these practices just don’t fit and cost money. The reality is, even if you implement these best practices, they will likely be dated by the time you implement them.

If you are comparing yourself to your competition, then you are already behind. This makes it almost impossible to catch up to your competition. You won’t leapfrog your competition with that mindset. This is a path to obsolescence.

Today’s organization design must be adaptive and yet resilient. Each wave of internal business transformation threatens existing structures and creates constant change, disruption, and upheaval. Read more about Adaptive Organization Design.

Redefine Change, Redefine the Matrix

To start, ‘Network’ organizational design is one of the latest concepts being introduced to companies as a solution to today’s constantly changing business environment. While this is an interesting model, it still lacks the flexibility and linkage to a business strategy.

Traditionally, designing an organization was not a matter of picking a model that seems best, but looking at your competition and copying what works best for them. This is wrong, a structure needs to be designed to support the business capabilities that are necessary to deliver your strategy.

Starting with any predefined structure is the same as taking a hammer from your trusty toolbox and using it to drive in a screw. It will get the job done… But it will make a mess of things … and it will have to be redone. We have learned three golden rules from a successful business and digital transformation efforts.

Three Golden Rules

#1: Any change to processes or business models may result in changes to your customer experience.  You must take a hard look at your structure to determine how transformation is best leveraged with a different structural model.

#2: The structures of the past do not work. Looking across the street at your competition will not help you gain a competitive edge.

#3: To be successful, the organizational design needs to be aligned with the capabilities needed to deliver your strategy. Anything else will result in rework and disruption down the road.

Implementing an adaptive organizational structure instead of a matrix is something any organization can do.  It’s not easy, but the research and frameworks are out there to ensure your strategy and matrix are not outdated for long. If you are interested in learning more about how to create an adaptive structure that you can be certain will drive your strategy, learn more here.

Success principles are like any other discipline, a mindset.  A mindset that is taught by experts.  People who have walked the path before you and have implemented successful change.  

Here’s a tip, success is available to anyone willing to do the research and find out the right way to achieve their goals.  We’re here to help you on your road to success.  Check out our free courses for more.


If you liked this blog, you may also enjoy this material.

Essentials of Strategic Differentiation – This course helps deliver great strategies which create clear differentiation in the market and deliver on what your customers need and want.

Customer Value Mapping – This tool helps define key competitive attributes and highlights the attributes your company should emphasize and make visible to the customer.

Critical Thinking – This is probably our most important tool. The process of critical thinking will serve you in all areas of life, especially business.


We offer tools and resources to help transform your organization and career on your journey to success. It’s time to take change head-on rather than waiting around, scared or uncertain for your organization and future.  You cannot live in fear.  Your organization needs your help right now and will greatly reward this kind of thinking.

Please add your thoughts to this blog, or better yet just contact us and we can explore this further to ensure that the investments you are ALREADY making drive your strategy.

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