Workplace Organizational Structures: The Pros & Cons of Divisional, Matrix, Network, and Team Workplaces

Working with global virtual teams means working with employees who may have different norms when it comes to workplace organizational structures.

Last week, we talked about the pros and cons of hierarchical, flat, and functional structures.

Today, we’re discussing divisional, matrix, network, and team workplaces.

Divisional Structure

Divisional structures are often used by large companies.

In this organizational structure, each division of a company operates like its own company within a larger organization.

They control their own resources and may each have their own sales, marketing, and IT teams.

This structure also allows divisions to make their own decisions without everything requiring approval from the big boss.

This type of structure may be market-based, product-based, or geographically-based.

Divisional pros:

  • Provides flexibility
  • Enables customization and autonomy
  • Allows more efficient response to customer needs

Divisional cons:

  • May lead to in-company conflict/competition
  • Can create duplicate resources
  • Communication may become confused or lax between the divisions and headquarters

Matrix Structure

If a company has many special projects, it may use a matrix organizational structure.

Such structures enable the formation of cross-functional teams.

For instance, a graphic designer might work in the art department, led by an art director, but be placed on temporary projects, led by a project manager.

Matrix pros:

  • Individuals are chosen by needs and expertise
  • Skills can be applied in various ways
  • The organization becomes more dynamic

Matrix cons:

  • Department managers and project managers may butt heads
  • The organizational chart changes frequently, which may cause confusion

Network Structure

When resources are spread in a company, a network organizational structure can create order out of it.

This type of structure is best for businesses that may include multiple freelancers, subcontractors, vendors, locations, etc.

Network structures rely more on relationships and open communication than hierarchy.

Network pros:

  • Connects the web of offsite and onsite relationships
  • Enables flexibility and promotes collaboration
  • Empowers employees to make decisions

Network cons:

  • Offsite processes can become complex
  • Lack of hierarchy can confuse employees about final decisions

Team Structure

This type of structure kicks open a traditional hierarchy and groups employees into teams.

Team structures promote employee autonomy and control, cooperation, and problem-solving.

Team pros:

  • Performance, productivity, and growth mindset are often boosted
  • Management is minimal
  • Experience becomes more important than seniority

Team cons:

  • May not be applicable to many organizations
  • Blurs the lines to paths of promotion

As we also saw last week, each organizational structure has its pros and cons.

Choosing the structure that works best for your organization – and being aware of other management approaches regarding cultural norms – will help you lead a global virtual team.

Managing a Global Virtual Team? You’ll Need These Vital Skills

Over the past several weeks, we’ve talked about the unique challenges that global remote teams face.

The team itself might have different work styles, motivation factors, and information gaps.

On top of that, working remotely sees different challenges than an office environment might, involving task management, productivity, accountability, and communication.

And yet, remote work is becoming a norm across the professional world.

As a manager, you’ll need special skills to successfully lead a cross-cultural remote team.

The following are just a few of the skills that will take your leadership from mediocre to exceptional.

Adaptability

As we’ve emphasized in this blog, the ability to adapt is essential to not only cross-cultural management but to living in a foreign culture.

In fact, adapting is one of the major steps in cross-cultural integration, which I discuss in my book, I am the Monkey!

Why? Because being flexible in your view of values, norms, and cultural behaviors will enable you to keep an open mind without judgment

Whether you’re integrating into a foreign culture or managing in a multicultural environment, an accepting and adaptable perspective allows you to move in the world with greater ease.

As a manager specifically, it will help you adjust your leadership style when necessary to accommodate different perspectives and behaviors. 

You will be better able to relate to your team and integrate aspects of their work style culture into your management toolkit.

Communication

Communication is of course top of the list for success in any managerial position, but when it comes to cross-cultural remote management, communication becomes even more key.

Particularly when communicating with team members who speak the shared language as a second language, it’s important to articulate and speak at a slower pace. 

If other members of the team tend to speak quickly, you might ask them privately to slow down or repeat what they’ve said, in order for the whole team to understand.

Lead the team in this deliberate way of speaking. It will set the tone for the entire team to follow.

Moreover, when voicing important info in voice memos, meetings, or calls, things can be lost in translation, so it’s helpful to reiterate the major points and finer details in a form of written communication as well.

This will enable those who speak the shared language as a second language to have a document to refer back to.

Self-awareness and Reflection

We’ve all said the wrong thing a time or two or committed a faux pas.

Well, in cross-cultural environments, this will most definitely happen more often.

I call these cross-cultural faux pas “monkey moments.”

Although you can do your research about cultures (and I advise you to), no matter how prepared you are, you’re likely to stub your toe every now and then.

Any leadership role requires a high degree of self-awareness and reflection, but a cross-cultural leadership role requires an even higher one.

You must be gracious, patient, and open to understanding and change.

Regularly address your innate biases and ensure they’re not getting in the way of your leadership.

Be deliberate in your team interactions, and challenge yourself and your own perspective.

You may see ways in which you might adjust your perspective and/or your behavior.

This type of leadership growth only comes with an advanced degree of self-awareness and reflection.