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Matrix-reporting: the bane of combining regional, functional, and business unit orientations

Unilever, with its “500 strong global legal department,” has appointed lead counsel for its three regions – Europe, Asia and North America (Legal Week, Feb. 9, 2006).

Along with its regional reporting structure for lawyers, I assume there are also specialty functions, such as HR and litigation. If there are also lawyers assigned to support particular business units across regional boundaries, then Unilever’s law department would have a three-ply matrix (See my post of Aug. 27, 2005 on the matrix structure at TIAA-CREF.).

For sprawling, global law departments, some kind of matrix structure must be in place for its managers to hope for consistency and productivity. Matrix structures are like democracy, flawed but nothing has been found to be better.

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