Matrix organizations are common because this design allows to grow in a sustainable way including both levels and processes within organizational structure. The “matrix design” can be challenged by organizational growing strategy for example within “Roll-up” strategy integrating new legal entities into the matrix usually is not easy. Also the “matrix design” deployment is itself a challenge where the communication flow and active change management are essential to achieve a succesful implemention. But once the “matrix design” is finally “in place” most organizations accomplish only a partial “in use” failling to achieve all of the benefits within this organizational design. Lean and Knowledge Management can help matrix organizations to achieve full “matrix design” potential benefits:

Standardize processes within groups by level

Matrix organizations tend to be global companies where at least local, regional and global levels exist, somethimes within the local level multiple legal entities can coexist. The next level within the “matrix desgin” will consolidate results from the previous one within the reporting structure. In many organizations countries or legal entities can be grouped to consolidate “Line of Business” (LOB) results. Eventhough when responsibilities and accountabilities are usually well established for results and reporting, this is not the case when we look at processes and “the way” in which they are been conducted. The potential to standardize processes within a group by Region or Line of Business is there within the “matrix design”, but the focus only in results ends up in a “Black Box” management architecture instead of a Lean one. To have standard processes is essential and enable organizations not only to drive Digital Transformation and centralization in global platforms or Share Services but also to develop RPA solutions, AI and Cognitive Capabilities.

Improve processes between groups by level

“Matrix designs” allow to define accountability not only “by level” but also “by process” and many organizations have designated Process Owners at least for their core processes. While the Level accountable consolidates results and has the opportunity to standardize processes within a group, the Process owner focus on processes` compliance with regulators and policies, and can compare performances between groups with the possibility of improving processes` performances. Many organizations have Level and Process accountability in the same role in an attemp, specially at Local and Regional levels, to create ownership for both results and process. Global process owners main function is to ensure the use of the same IT platforms, to lead and manage centralization processes. The potential for improving processes is also there in the “matrix design”, and if performance would rely on Technology only, the current approach will be enough but since it is not the case, we need to include Process and People within the ecuation to create a real process ownership flow on daily basis where the process performance is built. The aim is to ensure not only IT platform alignment and to comply regulators and policies, but also that the “best way” of performing each process within our organization is “in place” and “in use” to be able to benchmark our practices.

Lean Matrix Organization through Knowledge Management

To unleash the “matrix design” potential for standardizing and improving processes, it is essential to drive both communications between levels and networking within levels. Weekly staff meetings provide the opportunity to discuss about process performance within the team which is not the same that speaking with each team member and the leader reachs out its own conclusions. It is important to unveil the “Black Box” and to know what lies behind the current results to start working in process standardization as a key enabler for multiple organizational development purposes. Communities of Practices (CoP) help to develop a Process Owners` networks which are essential at a Local and also important at Regional levels. The issue here is: How much Process Owners know about the current process? Since they are oriented towards results and reporting they don`t know too much that is why it is important to engage the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the Communities of Practices to identify not only Best Practices but also Process Experts. What is needed from the Process Owners is not their expertise in the process but its Leadership first to engage the SMEs in Communities of Practices, to drive the Knowledge Management process to identify Process Experts, ensure Best Practices are “in place” and “in use”, and highlight Centres of Excellence by process taking into consideration both results and “Way of Working”. SharePoint is an excellent IT tool to create the working space that is needed to develop Communities of Practices, but without leadership, engagement and “networking processes” the objective of standardization and improvement won`t be met. Since Global Process Owners are focus on Technology, is essential for Regional and Local Process Owners to complement with the Process and People domains to achieve the full benefits package from the Business Transformation within Matrix Organizations.

Marcelo Sauro is an internationally experienced performance and improvement senior manager. He holds an Executive MBA and Master of Science degrees and has helped people and organizations to transform themselves. Not only he led E2E transformations in Global Business Services, R&D, Supply Chain and Finance organizations at all levels within the LATAM and EMEA Regions, but he is also experienced in several industries including Life Science, Healthcare, Insurance, Fintech, Technology, Telecoms, FMCG, Chemicals, Automotive, Energy and Mining. Since 2015, he has been researching and developing content in agile and resilience through Value Ways, while working under contract for customers such as MetLife, Novartis, Vertiv (Emerson NP) and Experian among others. Previously, he worked for more than 7 years as Master Black Belt for a LATAM-based consulting group, which had ASQ, Qualtec and Oriel as business partners. Prior to that, he worked for more than 10 years at BASF and GSK in positions of growing responsibility in the area of Operational Excellence. Marcelo is currently working at Ferring's “International PharmaScience Center” (IPC) for the Global R&D organization in Copenhagen. To find out more please visit

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