Updated: Oct 16, 2020
Nike's explosive growth throughout the early years was a result of a matrix organization. People that came in from traditional vertically driven and siloed organizations would either figure it out and thrive, or get frustrated and leave.
Organizationally, the company was aligned by product type ( footwear and apparel). In the mid 1990's, following the result of a "Future Vision" initiative, the company evolved into a product category focus with a vertically-aligned supply chain and team.
The organizational evolution anticipated growth, focus and change in the marketing and category dynamics.
Organizational history of the Nike Matrix:
1980's- We made great shoes and some apparel. The strong factory partners got the best programs and with limited technologies there were high, medium and lower capability manufacturers. Product was "horse traded" based on price and volume. 1990's- We began to see unique specialization in products. Running shoes are different than court shoes. Some manufacturers were better equipped to build products aligned with their expertise. We aligned product categories from design through manufacturing with everyone contributing expertise and value throughout the process. 2000's- We began to evolve and combine footwear, apparel and equipment as category business units and saw the benefit of regional product creation and alignment. 2010's- We moved from a combination of regional product creation and category focus to a more focused category business unit and eliminated many of the regional products in an effort to make sure that the category led with regional flavor.
This was the beginning of Nike leaders embracing the concept of leading virtual teams. In the late 1990's, Nike created the Product Creation Director role. This role led the execution of the product from design, development, engineering and assigning a dedicated manufacturing facility. This allowed for the team at the world headquarters in Beaverton to clearly communicate the vision and mission of the category and make sure that the performance features were designed to manufacture with the extended teams at the factories to be fully aligned.