The Three Ways of Structuring Projects for Managers: Pure, Functional, and Matrix
written by: J. Smith•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 11/23/2010
There are multiple ways to structure a project, but choosing the right way for your business can be difficult. Familiarize yourself with these methods in order to maximize your efficiency.
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For a small business owner, it is essential to understand how to manage employees working on projects for the company. A project is a sequence of different, yet related tasks that are all focused on achieving a certain goal. The length of the project and the number of people involved can vary dramatically. There are several ways to go about structuring projects, so you must determine your priorities before choosing which method to use.
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The pure project structuring model is ideal for smaller teams. It allows members of the group to report directly to a single boss who has all of the responsibility for managing the project. This tends to cause less confusion than having to deal with multiple bosses who may have different understandings of the project or how things should be done. Furthermore, this makes the communication process between team members easier, which can make the progress of the project move faster. In addition, since all members of the group are working closely together, they often have a higher morale and feeling of team unity in relation to other types of groups. However, pure projects have their disadvantages as well. Unless the team is specifically picked to include members who only specialize in one field, there may be overlap in their skills, which can leave some group members idle at times.
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The functional project structure is a good way to utilize group members’ various skills to their fullest. Groups are composed of people who already specialize in a certain area, so the project is typically completed fairly quickly. In addition, they are free to work on multiple jobs at once instead of being stuck in a single project. However, this can also work to a disadvantage, as other components of the project may not be done as well as they could by other people with different skills. In addition, it often lacks the feel of team solidarity found in pure project formations, because group members constantly change to work on different projects in their specialty.
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Matrix project strategy is often used by larger companies having multiple departments that specialize in certain skills. When choosing this method for structuring projects, a designated project leader is chosen to spearhead the venture. It is his or her responsibility to communicate with the various departments to complete the task. This is a highly efficient use of resources, as the project leader can choose only people who have a specific role in the final project. The overlap of skills in other structures is not as much of a problem, so there is less time for employees to be idle. The project leader needs to be able to communicate well with the different department leaders, as his or her success lies solely on the ability to find workers who can help with the project. This can be stressful on employees, though, as they have to report to an additional boss. There is very little solidarity in this structure, as team members often have little communication between departments; instead they only complete their assigned role and return to their previous department. On the plus side, this can also increase efficiency, as employees will be focused solely on their work, instead of worrying about other aspects of the project.