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Authorized to Manage – Organizational Types Matter (#6 in the series Authorized to Manage)
By Thomas Cutting

This is the sixth in a series looking at authority. Here we switch to practical uses of the four authority types within an organizational. This session will describe the difference between Functional, Projectized and Matrix environments.

Understanding your organization
puts the fun back in DysFUNctional

A Functional organization is divided by areas of specialization or function. There is the server group, the web development group, the legacy systems group, the security group and every other group you can imagine. Each group is managed by an expert in that area and their responsibility is to their silo of the company. Projects within a functional organization rely on using people from each of those groups as their individual managers make them available. The resources on the project still report to their functional managers and the project manager has little direct authority over them. When completed they fold back into the group they were in prior to the project.

The Projectized organization focus is on delivering projects. Project managers have full authority over priorities, resources and the effort of the people on the project. The team is created to perform a specific scope of work. When the work is completed it is dissolved. In some cases the same team may move intact to another project but usually they join other projects where their skills are needed. A good picture of this is a consulting company. As a project is awarded, a team is put together to complete it. When done they move on.

Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes lives the Matrix organization. It is a graduated scale authority from Weak to Balanced and then Strong where weak is next to the functional side and strong is closest to projectized.

In a weak matrix organization the project manager has very limited authority. Resources are on loan…and know it. Their loyalty remains with their functional manager and they understand that no matter how the project ends they have a home back in their group. Budgets are generally controlled by the functional manager and the project manager role is usually only part time. Even though most of the variables are out of the project manager’s control he will probably be fully responsible for the outcome. Sometimes the role isn’t even recognized and involves more coordination between groups than actual management.

The strong matrix swings the control more to the project manager. The positional authority level is closing in on high. Resources may still be shared but the majority of their activities are controlled by the project manager. Responsibility for the budget belongs to project manager and the role is full time.

In the balanced matrix responsibility is shared between the functional manager and the project manager. Positional authority becomes less of a factor between the two and there needs to be more give and take, which can become yank and shove if left unchecked by upper management.

Understanding where your company falls on the scale will show you where the real authority lies and allow you to manage accordingly. Trying to exert too much power in a weak matrix organization will cause friction with the functional manager and frustrate you. Fail to “own” your resources in a strong matrix and they end up on someone else’s project.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge ( and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (

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