|How matrix management is supposed to work|
|How matrix management actually works|
In the manned space flight business and nearly every other DoD, NASA, and DOE domain matrix management is the basis of Integrated Product (Project) Teams (IPTs). See O 413.3-18 as an example for the DOE context. NAVAIR and NASA have similar practice guidance.
So here's how it works. Let's pretend I'm the Propulsion Engineering Lead (yes it is rocket science).
I'm accountable for the design and development of the propulsion systems for our flying machine. This is critical concept - accountability - that is missed in most programs that go into the ditch. First Accountable, then Responsible. See http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/02/responsibility_.html for discussion on the RAM.
I report to the Program Manager - single line of responsibility flows down. But it flows down through the Systems Engineering Lead. I take direction from two people. The PM and the SE. They work with me in a matrixed manner since we're on an IPT organization. Now if they tell me conflicting things - say how much thrust is needed to hold orbit at Mars, then I need to convene a meeting to get this sorted out.
"Hey guys, we just got the ever-lovin' bejeezus bombed out of us by those bastards from across the border, but we can only go to war if ALL of us agree to do so. So, that's all wrapped up, then?"
"Joe, it's Fred. I disagree because I'm a pacifist and therefore refuse to support any course of action that leads to open war."