Modern organizations require new structural forms to cope with uncertainties
arising from the challenges of global competition and rapid technological and
environmental changes (Clarke and Clegg, 1998). One of the most important
developments in the area of planned change has been on how to work with large
systems so as to initiate and sustain change over time. It was from such contexts
that the matrix concept emerged. During the 1950s the term matrix emerged in the
United States aerospace industry and, as it has developed through the years, the
term has come to be accepted in both business and academic circles. In the 1960s
the matrix was sought as a fundamental alternative for dealing with unique
management problems of coordination, communication and control (Davis and
Lawrence, 1977). In the 1970s and 1980s interest in matrix organizational
structures peaked. Since that time, research and literature on the matrix has
diminished; contrarily, organizations continue to adopt the matrix as a viable
alternative to deal with their increasingly complex business environment.
In the recent past, some of the companies that applied a complex global matrix
structure have included Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), Zurich (1991); Brown & Root
(BR), UK (1999); Hatch (1999) – Formerly BHPE and Kaiser mergers; IMC
(1999); Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), (1999); and Sinclair Knight and Merz (SKM),
(2002). These companies have used matrix structures to achieve worldwide
economies of scale, combined with local flexibility and responsiveness. The
purpose of this study was to investigate the validity of political theories of
organizations in major international companies that have implemented matrix
structure, with a focus that includes identifying:
i. The key factors behind the strategic decision to change the corporate
organization in international companies to a matrix structure.
ii. The weaknesses and strengths of these matrix structures for
subsequent organizational performance.
iii. The effects of transition to matrix structure on organizational
iv. The factors used to maintain a power balance between divisions.
v. A model that seeks to diminish or reduce matrix structure weaknesses
to increase organizational effectiveness.
The research was conducted in the form of a questionnaire survey and semistructured
interviews. To illustrate the implementation of the matrix structure that
occurred in a real world environment, SKM has been researched as an intensive
As a professional engineer I have had opportunities to be involved with major
projects in various international organizations. I have also had opportunities to
observe organizations and to analyse their operations by exploring existing
procedures and manuals. It was noticeable that the overall success of the projects
relied very much on organizational decision making. This observation led my
paradigm shift from projects to organizational studies and to the idea of
conducting research that aims to investigate the weaknesses and strengths of
matrix structures for organizational performance.
This thesis presents a detailed account of the research activities undertaken by
Nursen Saracoglu and the outcomes of that research. The purpose of this research
is to investigate the validity of political theories of organizations in major
international companies that have implemented matrix structure. Data has been
collected using a combination of methods, including questionnaires, semistructured
interviews, and direct examination of library catalogues and databases.
The structure of this thesis is designed as follows:
Chapter 1 introduces, and describes the background to the research project. The
theories that provide a background to the various factors involved in organizations
choosing to change to matrix structures, and the resulting positive and negative
effects on the organization, are presented in this chapter.
Chapters 2 reviews and analyses the literature review that has been conducted to
focus, especially, on how changes to the structure and design of power in matrix
organizations can have important implications and consequences. The literature
review looks in detail at different organizational theories, particularly theories on
power within organizations, which have a bearing on the effect of a matrix
structure on an organization. Each theory is critiqued in terms of its relevance to
matrix structure analysis. Strategic Contingencies Theory (SCT) and Resource
Dependency Theory (RDT) best explain the effect of different levels of power
inside a matrix structure.
Chapter 3 details the research design and methodology. This chapter describes the
advantages and disadvantages of quantitative and qualitative approaches and
presents the rationale of selecting research methodology. The participating
organization, SKM, is described in terms of its history and its matrix structure is outlined.
Chapter 4 illustrates the results of research that defines potential areas of concern
associated with matrix structures. The discussion mainly centres on the methods
used to analyse the data and then focuses on the different dependent and
independent variables derived from the data that are used in the analysis for
correlation purposes. The aim of this chapter is to explain the various statistics
used to analyse the data and to list the variables that came up as a result of
answers to questionnaire. These variables are then analysed against each other in
order to develop a sense of the effectiveness of the matrix structure in SKM.
In Chapter 5 the qualitative data was examined using the responses obtained from
interviews with the top managers of SKM. This chapter aims to identify the
themes that have emerged from these interview responses and present them in
order of most to least common within each area of research, illustrated with
comments from some of the respondents.
Chapter 6 discusses the survey and interview results in order to exploit
quantitative findings to identify patterning in qualitative data. In parallel with SCT and RDT, the relationship between power and performance in matrix
organizations is presented. The new concepts that emerged based on the research
findings are introduced and discussed according to the relevance to the research
Chapter 7 This chapter concludes the research and presents research limitations,
boundaries, the contribution to the body of knowledge and a summary of future
research opportunities. The case studies give a sense of how various elements of
Matrix structure that outlined in this research were actually applied by other
particular organizations are exhibited in Appendix A.