Project management structure is very vital to the success of any project team; an organization or project team that is structured gives support to the work that’s being done. Misaligned project management teams or organizations create a negative impact on the outcome of a project.  This is simply because the organizational structure has an influence on the authority of the project manager, thereby affecting how projects are run. It goes without saying that non-structured project management teams often  lack guidance and a guided team drives successful projects.

In this post, we are going to be looking at the project management organizational structure from two angles; we will be studying them in terms of who the project leader is and who is responsible for decision making where the project is concerned.

As we know, an organization could be defined as a group of persons who come together to accomplish set goals; in order to successfully achieve those set goals, a project manager would need to familiarize himself with the project management office structure.

Three Types of Project Management Structures

An organizational structure could be described as the official line of authority and control within an organization. Project management structures tell us how reporting relationships work in a particular organization.

Depending on the environment the organization finds itself operating in, the goals they set for themselves and the nature of work being done, you would find that organizations are structured in 3 ways:

  • Functional Organizational Structure
  • Matrix Organizational Structure – This can be further broken down into – Balanced matrix, Strong Matrix, and Weak Matrix
  • Projectized Organization Structure

Now that we know how organizational structures are categorized, let’s take a closer look at each one of them to see what makes them unique.

Functional Organizational Structure

In a functional organizational structure, you would find the components of a hierarchy system where authority-driven decisions on budget, schedule, and equipment rest on the shoulders of the functional manager who possesses a significant level of expertise in the same field.

That is to say that the project manager, in this type of organization has little to no authority here; in some functional organizations, that position does not even exist.

What would you find, however, is that the work is broken down into departments such as the human resource department, sales department, finance, public relations, administration, etc.

In simple terms, it can be likened to that of a more traditional company where staff is presided over by a supervisor, based on their functions within the organization and communication is most often done through the department heads to senior management.

What is fascinating about this type of organizational structure is that employees appear to be more skilled in their respective departments, thereby leading to greater work efficiency. Everyone knows who to hold accountable if something were to go wrong as responsibilities are predetermined.

On the downside, the work may prove monotonous over time, which could result in less enthusiasm and reduced loyalty to the organization. In addition to that, you would also find that cross-departmental communication becomes poor and the high level of bureaucracy could affect decision-making negatively.

Projectized Organizational Structure

The projectized organizational structure is the complete opposite of the functional organizational structure even though the organization may still group staff according to their work functions.

In this case, the project management team structure is organized in such a way that the project manager has project authority. He has jurisdiction over the project’s budget, schedule, and the project team. You would find him at the top of the hierarchical structure, calling all the shots; with employees playing supporting roles for the project. At the end of the project, the project team members are released and resources directed towards more relevant areas.

What’s great about this kind of structure is that there is a clear, established line of authority; resulting in faster decision-making and approval. Communication becomes easier and more effective and project team members gain more experience working on different types of projects as the need for them arises.

A major disadvantage to this type of organizational structure, however, would be that employees could see themselves being under a lot of pressure most of the time, especially if they happen to work on multiple projects at the same time. This often leads to poor communication amongst the team members as everyone is left more or less playing “catch-up”.

Matrix Organizational Structure

The matrix organizational structure can be found lying somewhere between the functional organizational structure and the projectized organizational structure depending on what type of matrix structure is being run.

For instance, the strong matrix organizational structure has some similarities with that of a projectized organizational structure in the sense that the project manager is responsible for a project. If the organization is running a weak matrix structure, then the project authority would fall to the hands of a functional manager – as it is in a functional organization. Interestingly enough, in a balanced matrix organization, both the project manager and the functional manager shares equal authority for the project.

If an organization finds itself working in a dynamic environment, then this might be the right structure to run with it and it promotes greater efficiency, helping the organization respond to customer demands or changes in the marketplace, faster.

This is easily achieved because while the project manager exhibits project authority in a horizontal manner, the functional manager does so in a vertical, flowing downwards. For example, the project manager could be responsible for handling project schedule or budget while the functional manager would be responsible for outlining and distributing responsibilities, overseeing the performance of the equipment, etc.

In Summary

In this post, we looked at what an organizational structure was and how vital it was for project managers to understand the different organizational structures.

We looked at the merits and demerits of running a functional, projectized and matrix structure and we noted that the decision to go with either of them would depend on the kind of environment in which the organization operates in, their goals and the nature of work being done.