STEPHANIE WARINO, from page 1 ❚ ❚ Strong matrix organization. Project managers are all contained within one functional group, and supporting staff are in their own functional groups. I think it could work for large projects that require full-time project management and also need a lot of varied technical resources, but it could make it difficult for technical staff to advance to project management. However, most organizational structures are more nuanced, and scaling patterns in AEC firm growth sometimes emerge in this way: ❚ ❚ Functional organization. In a smaller firm, or the smallest management unit of a large firm, you’ll see a functional structure – they are what they sound like, staff grouped by specialty. That can work well, if the functional manager performs all project management duties, and if functional managers collaborate. Sometimes when there is not intentional scaling, a functional structure can evolve into a weak matrix organization, where the leader becomes somewhat disconnected from project work, and when cross-functional collaboration with another department becomes challenging. ❚ ❚ Weak matrix organization. Project management happens at the functional manager level, and most project coordination is done at staff level. The issue here is that no one at the staff level really has the authority to make or enforce any decisions. How crazy can this get? In the past, I had a staff member in another department working on my project, who balked at my request for project documents their department was producing. They thought that “piece” of it was “their project.” Whoa, folks. It’s the client’s project, right? So, if organizational evolution is left unchecked, the eventual result is that the strongest personalities emerge as up-and-coming leaders. ❚ ❚ Balanced matrix organization. In the balanced matrix organization, the project manager is at staff level, as opposed to manager level, as in the weak matrix organization. If there is good organizational change management, an intentional plan would be in place to evolve a functional organization into a balanced matrix organization. In the PMBOK’s view, the balanced matrix doesn’t give the project manager full authority over the project and the project funding. From the AEC industry perspective, I disagree with that in at least one respect – I think that authority is conditional and dependent on cultural factors, including the importance placed on good project management as well as the importance placed on client experience. This really all depends on the size of the organization, too. If you have an organization with a deep hierarchy, you may see these structures layered upon one another (the PMBOK calls this a composite structure). For example, you may see a set of functional management units that act as a “balanced matrix organization,” with the next management level being more “projectized” (think of this as locations, perhaps) overlying it, grouped into a “projectized” business units at the top. Understanding your organizational enablers, especially organizational structure evolution, and managing it intentionally, are key to designing around excellence in project delivery. If you’re interested in learning more about improving project management, check out the following resources from Zweig Group: ❚ ❚ Project Management for AEC Professionals is a new virtual seminar for project managers led by a panel of three experts. This course will take the guesswork out of leading your team and help develop project leaders who are equipped with practical, science-backed skills to empower their teams to achieve and surpass their goals. ❚ ❚ Zweig Group is currently collecting data in the Project Management Survey of AEC Firms for the 2021 Project Management Report . Participate and save 50 percent on this important resource. STEPHANIE WARINO is a strategic planning advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her at swarino@ zweiggroup.com.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 12, 2021, ISSUE 1399
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