Asee peer logo

An After-action Review: Creating a Matrix Organizational Design Model for Online Education at a Tier-1 Research University

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Continuing Professional Development Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Mitchell L. Springer Purdue University at West Lafayette

visit author page

Dr. Mitchell L. Springer

Dr. Springer currently serves as an Executive Director for Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute located in West Lafayette, Indiana. He has over thirty-five years of theoretical and defense industry-based practical experience from four disciplines: software engineering, systems engineering, program management and human resources. Dr. Springer possesses a significant strength in pattern recognition, analyzing and improving organizational systems. He is internationally recognized and has contributed to scholarship more than 300 books, articles, presentations, editorials and reviews on software development methodologies, management, organizational change, and program management. Dr. Springer sits on many university and community boards and advisory committees. He is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including local, regional and national recognitions for leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Springer is the President of the Indiana Council for Continuing Education as well as the Past-Chair of the Continuing Professional Development Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Dr. Springer received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Purdue University, his MBA and Doctorate in Adult and Community Education with a Cognate in Executive Development from Ball State University. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR & SHRM-SCP), in Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and, in civil and domestic mediation. Dr. Springer is a State of Indiana Registered domestic mediator.

visit author page


Keith Plemmons MBAS, Inc. Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Keith Plemmons is the Director of Innovative Technologies and Services for MBAS, Inc. and the CEO of VAB Group, LLC, a sole-proprietor business services company. He brings more than 30 years of multidisciplinary engineering, agile project management, and higher education experience across both public and private sectors in the United States and Japan. His credentials include a B.S. in Civil Engineering from The Citadel, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Clemson University. Keith’s passions include project management, technology, and workforce development. He and his wife have three major projects (i.e. children), all of whom are adopted, ahead of schedule, and slightly over budget.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Creating a matrix organizational design model, at the highest level, is a three-step process. While not difficult to understand in theory, it can be quite difficult in practice, with multiple opportunities for failure. Meaning, if done out of sequence, or steps minimalized in favor of expediency, then significant rework will occur, this at the expense of efficiency, effectiveness, and people. The first step in creating an efficient and effective matrix model is to recognize the many disciplines of the organization. In business/industry, these disciplines may be as many as 17, including engineering, HR, operations, finance, legal, and the like. Once the disciplines have been defined, the next step is to recognize each discipline has a body of knowledge. If the discipline does not have a body of knowledge, then it may be the discipline is not a discipline at all, but in fact, a subset of child activities of yet another parent discipline. If a discipline is determined to possess a body of knowledge, then that body of knowledge should be able to be expressed as a process, with seemingly sequential or recurring activities, where each activity has attendant to it one or more outputs/products. The process, then, can be defined in terms of a hierarchy of processes, procedures, methodologies, and practices. Each discipline process should have interfaces to other disciplines defined with pro-active and re-active KPIs. Once disciplines have been identified and defined, the final step is to allocate human resources to the vertically identified disciplines/functions. To avoid later significant restructuring rework and cultural upheaval, this step must occur as the final step, after Step #1 and Step #2 above. Understanding the basic building blocks of matrix organizational model design and process management is the science and increasingly the art of creating an efficient and effective matrix organizational model. As important, however to the blocking and tackling of understanding the many phases, activities, and processes, are the cultural activities related to people. Even the best at blocking and tackling, will fail if people are not fully accounted for during the change management process. Major opportunities for failure There are many opportunities for introducing inefficiencies and unnecessary cost drivers. Common mistakes are centered not only on an improper matrix model implementation, but the introduction of power and ego into the process. Below highlight mistakes commonly made, in this highly emotional experience.  Failing to recognize the horizontal businesses/colleges are in fact the profit/loss centers, and the vertical functions/disciplines are support organizations. This recognizes the dog from the tail dilemma.  Not fully understanding the basic blocking and tackling of organizational matrix model development.  Not fully understanding the science of process management.  Ignoring the people issues of change management.  Overcoming leadership emotional immaturity during the highly emotional design process.

Springer, M. L., & Plemmons, K. (2021, July), An After-action Review: Creating a Matrix Organizational Design Model for Online Education at a Tier-1 Research University Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36664

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015