Workflow and management--how is your department organized?

Subject: Workflow and management--how is your department organized?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 08:39:13 -0500

Martin Smith is <<... beginning a reorganization of our Engineering
department. Also up for consideration is how to manage our Technical Writing
department, which for now only consists of myself... The most likely
scenario is for me to report to the project manager overseeing each project.
This would mean that I may report to multiple people, which has lead to
priority conflicts in the past.>>

Currently, our communications group works as a more or less "self-directed
team", reporting directly to the research director and indirectly to the
vice-president (i.e., division manager). The research director is the only
one with any real supervisory role. However, we're a research institute, and
we've just moved over to a matrix management approach, in which the leaders
of our various research programs "share" the research staff and book the
time of anyone they need to handle one of the activities within their
program. Although this does increase the flexibility of our approach by
letting managers bring all the right guns to bear on a problem, there are
many problems yet to be resolved (e.g., who gets priority in booking a
researcher, who does the annual performance appraisals, and who arbitrates
when there are conflicting demands). We're small enough that the research
director is generally the guy in the hot seat when it comes to resolving
problems. On the whole, I prefer the organisation we're using for the
communications team, but I haven't heard the researchers say enough bad
things about the matrix approach that I'd dismiss it out of hand.

In the end, it probably comes down to how good your managers are; ours are
pretty good (not a pointy hair among them), and that's likely what makes it
work for us. But I can see how bad (or even laissez faire) managers could
turn this approach into a disaster.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Hofstadter's Law: The time and effort required to complete a project are
always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's

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