Is the Matrix Fad a Fast Fading Flower?



Robert Youker

(Formerly of the World Bank Institute)  

Maryland, USA



Fads come and go.  Matrix has come.  If it goes, it will have been a fad.  Is the bloom off the matrix rose and will the matrix soon fade away?

This paper reviews current criticisms of the matrix organizational structure, especially by Peters and Waterman in the best selling book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies.  It reviews several alternatives to the matrix and concludes that the switch to a matrix structure is often just one step in a larger process of developing an effective system for managing projects.

Is the Matrix Organization a Fad?

In the past decade there has been an explosion of interest in the matrix form of organization.  There have been a host of articles and papers on the matrix in the Project Management Journal (Quarterly) and at the PMI Symposiums.  The PMI has even published a book which deals extensively with matrix organizations. [6] Many companies have adopted matrix structures and lecturers and consulting organizations have been busy telling businessmen how to set up matrix structures and how to survive within the matrix.

Recently, however, there has been increased criticism of the matrix approach.  In 1982 two consultants from McKinsey and Company, Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, wrote a best-selling and influential book entitled In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. [1] Peters and Waterman analyzed 62 high performing companies and found that not one used the matrix structure…


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally prepared for the PMI Symposium in Philadelphia, PA, USA during 8-10 October 1984.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Youker, R. (1984). Is the Matrix Fad a Fast Fading Flower? Proceedings, PMI Annual Seminar/Symposium, Philadelphia, PA, USA; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue IX – September Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/pmwj74-Sep2018-Youker-is-the-matrix-a-fast-fading-flower-pmi-1984.pdf


About the Author

Robert Youker

World Bank (retired)





Robert (Bob) Youker is an independent trainer and consultant in Project Management with more than forty years of experience in the field.  He is retired from the World Bank where he developed and presented six week project management training courses for the managers of major projects in many different countries. He served as the technical author for the bank on the Instructors Resource Kit on CD ROM for a five week training course on Managing the Implementation of Development Projects.  He has written and presented more than a dozen papers at the Project Management Institute and the International Project Management Association (Europe) conferences many of which have been reprinted in the Project Management Institute publications and the International Journal of Project Management (UK).

Mr. Youker is a graduate of Colgate University, the Harvard Business School and studied for a doctorate in behavioral science at George Washington University.  His project management experience includes new product development at Xerox Corporation and project management consulting for many companies as President of Planalog Management Systems from 1968 to 1975.  He has taught in Project Management Courses for AMA, AMR, AED, ILI, ILO, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, George Washington University, the Asian Development Bank and many other organizations. He developed and presented the first Project Management courses in Pakistan, Turkey, China and Africa for the World Bank.

A few years ago Mr. Youker conducted Project Management training in Amman, Jordan financed by the European Union for 75 high level civil servants from Iraq who implemented the first four World Bank projects in Iraq. He is a former Director of PMI, IPMA and asapm, the USA member organization of IPMA. Most recently he has been consulting for the US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation on project management training in Africa.  Bob can be contacted at [email protected]

To see more works by Bob Youker, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/robert-bob-youker/