Hackman Authority Matrix

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Sohrab Salimi

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3 Minutes

The Hackman Authority Matrix makes transparent which skills team members need to acquire in order to develop into a self-organized team. For this purpose, it distinguishes four types of teams and their roles.

  • Easy-to-understand model to illustrate forms of self-organization
  • acquisition of necessary skills as a prerequisite for agile collaboration
  • based on the research of social and organizational psychologist John Richard Hackman

Definition of Hackman's authority matrix

Hackman's authority matrix is a model that describes the assignment of responsibilities in teams. On the horizontal axis, he lists the possible types of teams, from manager-led to self-leading to self-designing to autonomous groups. Responsibilities arrange themselves on the horizontal axis, with the range increasing from bottom to top.

The model makes it possible to understand and follow the path of classical teams towards self-organization.


Authority Matrix, Authority Model, Authority Hierarchy

Use of the authority model according to Richard Hackman

What is the path of an organization with manager-led teams to self-organized teams? It is not enough for the manager to determine that a group should be subject to self-organization in the future. This leads to maximum chaos in the distribution of responsibilities: Neither the management nor the members of self-organized teams understand ad hoc who is responsible for which tasks. Moreover, the skills required for self-organization are not present among team members.

Hackman Team Authority Matrix

Hackman's authority matrix helps to understand the collaboration between management and self-organized teams. For this purpose, the author defines four types of teams:

  • Manager-led teams (manager-led teams): In this classic model of teamwork, members are solely responsible for executing tasks. The manager controls the processes, determines the working context, controls and evaluates the results and is responsible for reporting. The individual team members themselves have little freedom in shaping their role.
    Example: classic project teams
  • Self-leading teams (self-managing teams): Self-managing teams have more responsibility. They carry out the work at hand and take control of the group's results. This form of self-organization is often found in companies that are in the process of transitioning to the formation of agile teams. Collaboration with the leader is characterized by trust and greater freedom in shaping work in an agile way.
    Examples: Kanban and Scrum teams in the IT sector.
  • Self-designing teams (self-designing teams): These self-organized teams decide themselves on the framework of their work. Depending on the organization, this can even mean that employees jointly decide on hiring or firing team members. The manager merely specifies the goals to be achieved. This distribution of roles is especially common in agile teams and lean management.
    Example: Scrum teams under agile aspects.
  • Autonomous teams (self-governing teams): Self-governing teams decide completely freely about their work and are not subject to any specifications from a superior. The absolutely free organization of their cooperation is also characterized by the independent definition of goals. This form of self-managed teams is rarely encountered.
    Examples: Boards of directors, start-ups

Origin of the Hackman Matrix

The authority matrix goes back to J. Richard Hackman (1940 to 2013), who is considered one of the world's most respected experts on group processes and teams in organizations. He conducted research in the field of social and organizational psychology for several decades and taught as a psychologist at Harvard University. In his book, Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, he presented the authority matrix and described the four levels of assigning authority in teams.

Hackman Model on Team Effectiveness

Additionally, you can learn from our Certified Scrum Trainer, Sohrab Salimi, more about Hackman and his Model on Team effectiveness in this video from our self-paced online courses.

Hackman Model on Team Effectiveness

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