To work efficiently, all employees in an organisation must be clear about their specific roles and responsibilities. In small firms employees may have to take on a number of roles, however, in larger firms the roles are more clearly defined and formally structured. KBR is a global business employing over 57,000 people worldwide in project management activities within the engineering, construction and services industries. There are numerous roles within KBR and, as the company has grown, these have been organised into a structure which enables it to achieve its mission to safely deliver any project. One of these projects is Allenby/Connaught, which is tasked with improving the living and working conditions for British soldiers across bases in Salisbury Plain and in Aldershot. For this project, a more matrix style of working is being adopted. This means that teams of workers with specialist skills are brought together from across the functions of the business to work on the project.
Understanding roles and structuring them effectively is not just important within business. Organising a Christmas party, planning a charity event or putting together a football team all require the individuals involved to know exactly what is expected of them and how their role fits in with the bigger picture.
As the World Cup draw took place last week, it is interesting to look at the roles and structures within the world of football. Fabio Capello's England team can be viewed as a matrix structure. He has taken players from across different clubs to work on a project – the World Cup. Each player has specialist skills depending on the position they play. Capello may be pleased with the results of the group draw but he also has concerns. As with any matrix structure, the individuals concerned will have divided loyalties. In this case he will be concerned that the players' responsibilities to their clubs may impact on their performance in the World Cup, especially for those who reach the Champions League final. (The Sunday Times 6th December 2009)
- Define the terms functional structure and matrix structure.
- Using the KBR case study, explain how the structure of KBR might have changed since 1901.
- Analyse the nenefits of a matrix structure to an organisation such as KBR.
Answers to questions
1. Define the terms 'functional structure' and 'matrix structure'.
- Functional structure – a traditional structure where organisations are divided into departments (or functions) such as Finance, HR and Marketing
- Matrix structure – an organisational structure involving more than one line of communication where employees from different functions come together to work in project teams
2.Using the KBR case study, explain how the structure of KBR might have changed since 1901 Possible responses may include:
- In 1901 the structure may have been fairly informal as the pipe fabrication business was small
- As the business grew the organisation was structured into six business units, each specialising in one area of expertise
- Each unit operates as a hierarchy (see chart relating to Project Allenby/Connaught)
- To aid communication the hierarchy has become flatter
- Matrix teams are in operation within KBR's projects
3. Analyse the benefits of a matrix structure to an organisation such as KBR
- Decisions can be made quickly
- Can be more efficient than individual departments working on projects
- Greater empowerment can motivate workers
- The necessary skill combinations can be developed for each project
- Control may be difficult as workers have two line managers (functional and matrix)
- Divided loyalties
- Decentralised decision making can be resented by senior managers
- Difficult for senior managers to have a complete overview of what is happening within the organisation