Matrix Organization

Matrix Organization

Management is a matter of making things in spite of the existence of economic restrictions. The limit in the resources available for some activity produces a need of some kind of planning of the activities and the use of resources to assure that finally we can reach the desired aim. The key point of the work of any engineer is optimization. In other words, management and engineering are similar activities. Management can be seen like some kind of organizational engineering, when is supported by mathematical methods and similar techniques. Forgetting that a main role of a manager is the design of the organizational activities, drives relentlessly to bad management.

The planned design of a set of activities to optimize some function of cost of benefit is producing a system. A system can be seen a set of agents (parts of a system that act or make actions in some predictable or planned way) that are affected by the behavior of other ones. The actions of any agent have a certain influence and impose restrictions to the possible actions of the others. This fact produces a certain global behavior for any natural system.

Artificial systems are built with the aim to provide coordination between the activities of the different agents of the system optimizing the use of the resources to reach some kind of global aim with a lower cost or a higher benefit. This viewpoint taken to the human systems would drive directly to the following moral principle: “The group is more important than the individuals”.

Occidental societies were born under different moral principles. For the occidental societies the rights of the people are over the rights of any group. The sacrifice of some individuals for the group only is considered morally good in drastic situations where it could imply the survival of much more individuals. This is not a problem for a systemic viewpoint of a society because we can analyze it looking at this fact as a new set of restrictions for the agents.

Any human system is a very complex system because there are a lot of links physical and affective among people (the agents of the system), there are a lot of restrictions for the actions that people can take, and there is a large uncertainty about the decisions that any agent of the system can make. This complexity means that the managers cannot make clear predictions about the future evolution of the system unless the system was built to make easier that kind of predictions.

Management is not only a matter of coordination for optimization. It is a matter of coordination for complexity reduction too. This is the way as organizational engineering provides value. Simpler organizational designs drive to more manageable organizations.

When a manager tries to reduce the uncertainty about the behavior of the staff, he usually establishes rules and procedures of work. He increases the restrictions for the agents in order to reduce the complexity of the system. The easy way for the manager of reducing complexity increasing the restrictions for the people can reduce uncertainty but it may be increasing complexity of the system and reducing manageability because new structure is created through the new procedures, however, this is not the engineering way. Organizational engineering would redesign the tasks of every agent in order to reduce complexity through better coordination. The new restrictions for the people would be imposed by the new and different relations among the agents instead of personal restrictions established by the directorate. This lets to reduce simultaneously the links between people and the uncertainty about their behavior, making the system easier to be understood and managed. In the field of politics, this would be the difference between legislating and reforming. The uncertainty about the behavior of the people can be reduced by a decree, but the benefit of a society cannot be imposed by a decree reducing the rights of the people because of the economic restrictions.

This way is the traditional occidental way: the freedom of a person must end where the freedom of another one begins, instead of depending on the optimization of a global function of common good that could drive to consider people as gears of a machine without any kind of personal rights, and without providing real value for the society that is finally the value for its people.