This competitive environment necessitated an innovation function that was highly responsive to frequent changes in the marketplace. As a solution, Quantum based the organisation of its innovation process on flexible lateral (team-based) structures, state-of-the-art functions or competencies, and appropriate incentive systems. These required each team member to act as a ‘cross-functional specialist’ (which of course may seem like a contradiction ‘in terminis’). As those ‘cross-functional specialists’ had to strike a balance between team performance and individual performance as well as between expertise and experience, appropriate incentive systems were developed and implemented.

This need for ‘cross-functional specialists’ points to the dilemma or the tension present in the innovation matrix type organization; an organisational tension which is characteristic of most innovative companies. Any innovator needs to balance the development of competencies (i.e. the development of a sufficient absorptive capability) with the imperative to achieve the results expected from the projects and programs in the new product development portfolio. The creation of a matrix type organisational structure, in which functional competence areas and cross-functional project teams are intertwined and balanced, often attempts to solve this dilemma. The successful innovation organisation therefore requires a matrix structure balancing a clear division of influence, power and authority between its project management component and its competence management component.

In order for competencies to be allocated to and deployed in a breakthrough new product development project, they need to be up-to-date and state-of-the-art (I intentionally leave out derivative projects, since they often require only minimal forms of project organisation). Hence, successful breakthrough projects will have to be embedded in strongly developed competence areas. This calls for a ‘strong’ matrix structure, where competence areas and project management both are allies in resource accumulation and deployment, rather than the one being dominated by the other. Both components of the matrix structure have to be state-of-the-art in their respective domains of expertise and experience. It is obvious that this presence of two strong organizational components carries the germs for conflict situations. Hence, there exists a clear need for professional ‘conflict handling and resolution’ capabilities and strategies in the innovation matrix.

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

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