There are lots of consultants and business school pundits talking about "lattice management structure", as a quick Internet search will confirm, and a few business organizations appear to have adopted some form of lattice structure.
I was in a discussion where someone declared that lattice management was just the same as matrix management. Given the optimistic vagueness with which management gurus peddle their thinking, and given their propensity to attach new labels to second-hand concepts, it is hard to be certain about this. However, there do seem to be some important differences between matrix management and lattice management.
Matrix management often looks like an intersection between two or more hierarchies - so you report up one management ladder for certain aspects of your work, and up another management ladder for certain other aspects of your work, thus solving some problems with the simple hierarchy. (Opponents of matrix management argue that it introduces more new problems than it solves.) Whereas lattice management is being described in terms of horizontal and diagonal flows, as well as horizontal and diagonal career moves. Is that the same? Who knows what these descriptions really mean?
According to some accounts of lattice management, there aren't any bosses.
My first mentor in data modelling, Raimo Rikkilä, taught me that every question had three possible answers: zero, one and many. Thus there are three possible answers to the question "How many bosses do you have?"
Each of these structures offers a different (imperfect) solution to the problem of accountability. In a lattice organization, one is primarily accountable to the customer. This relates to what my friend Philip Boxer calls East-West Dominance. See also his post on Architectures that integrate differentiated behaviors, where he indicates the limitations of matrix and the potential of lattice.
The example of Lattice Management that everyone cites is W.L. Gore. Many people complain that this isn't a perfect implementation of the Lattice concept. But then I've never seen an organization that implements the Hierarchy or Matrix concept perfectly either.
You might also complain that a singular example is a bit problematic. There are other singular organizations that attract a lot of attention, like Semco. Incidentally, according to some sources, Semco adopted a lattice structure in the mid 1980s, but has since moved to something even sexier.
But the management literature is teeming with singular or extreme examples. Amazon whenever the platform business is discussed. Shell whenever scenario planning is discussed. Apple, Toyota, and so on. If we were to ban singular examples, much of the management literature would disappear.
There may be some extremists who believe that a lattice management structure is suitable for every organization, although we might reasonably be sceptical of such a claim in the absence of much practical evidence. A more moderate (and more plausible) position is that many organizations could benefit from a lattice structure. So we might ask why don't MORE business organizations adopt a lattice management structure, and what inhibits organizations from adopting more innovative structures that might benefit them.
One likely explanation is that there are some stakeholders who strongly (if covertly) oppose such structural change, perhaps because their own personal power base depends on traditional lines of authority.
Another explanation is that there are some aspects of organizational structure that are so deeply embedded that they are hard to change, even when all stakeholders are willing to change.
In general, there are some kinds of structural change that a given organization is capable of adopting, and other kinds of structural change that would be very difficult if not impossible. This is undoubtedly something that business architects need to get a handle on.
Cathy Benko, Molly Anderson and Suzanne Vickberg, The Corporate Lattice, A strategic response to the changing world of work (Deloitte Review)
Cathy Benko and Andrew Liakopoulos, The Corporate Lattice (Talent Management, Jan 2011)
Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson, The Lattice That Has Replaced The Corporate Ladder (Forbes March 2011)
Gary Hamel, Innovation Democracy: W.L. Gore's Original Management Model (Management Innovation eXchange, December 2010)
How "don't use the B-word" applies in lattice-structure management (MetaFilter, July 2011)
Marie Wiere, The Pros and Cons of a Hierarchy Free (Lattice) Organization Structure (May 2012)