All organizations follow specific organizational structures to run the company smoothly. Each organizational structure has its specific characteristics. You may choose the one that suits your company’s needs the best. For example, the functional structure provides all authority to the manager. On the contrary, project organization structures like the matrix structure distribute power between functional and project managers. The hierarchy is different in each of them. Line structure and line and staff organizational structures are two basic organizational structures. Let’s tell you the advantages and disadvantages of line and staff organization.
What is a Line Organization System?
Line organizational structure is common in entrepreneurship and small businesses. It gives complete control to the top hierarchy, exhibiting authoritative leadership. For example, the owner of a small business acts as the leader or manager of inline systems. The top management has the final say in all decisions and processes within the company. It does not involve a large number of people.
What is Line and Staff Organizational Structure?
Line and staff organization is a little more complicated than the line system. Besides the straightforward organization system, it also involves staff of different departments. Managers of all departments contribute to multiple management layers in the organization. Line and staff structure is adapted by medium to large organizations with several employees. The line officers and staff officers perform their specific functions to contribute to the overall operation.
Line and Staff Authority Structure
Line and Staff structure provide three kinds of authority within the organization. The leaders follow the line, staff, and functional authority. Here’s a breakdown of the power in each.
Line authority means giving the person a particular amount of control for specific tasks. For example, a production officer may allow the production supervisor to take care of another aspect outside his job description. This kind of authority flows down the line. However, authority does not always translate to effectiveness. Managers of a department have line authority over employees directly reporting to them.
Staff authority refers to advising the people with line authority for better results. It means the staff authority may work to facilitate the process in line control. For example, quality control officers may guide the production department in improving the stability of the product.
Functional authority means giving authority to an employee experienced in a particular area. You may say that it is limited line authority. Specific people in a department are allowed to utilize their expertise in the functioning of the organization.
Advantages of Line and Staff Organization
One of the most important advantages of line and staff organization is that it improves specialization in the system. Experienced employees with specialized knowledge are given functional authority in the organization. Line organization enables the staff to work more toward the execution of tasks.
The clarity of authority and tasks within the company introduces discipline. The staff personnel does not supervise the line officers. Line personnel command the workers and give feedback. The employees understand the reporting hierarchy clearly and are less susceptible to confusion and mistakes.
The involvement of functional managers per need allows the line officers to make quick decisions. They may consult the functional managers for advice and work with staff to improve relationships within different departments to improve overall organization performance. It reduces the time taken for multiple approvals.
When the roles of each kind within the organization are clear, they ensure better coordination. Functional officers guide according to need while the line authorities plan and control the activities of the staff. It improves different coordinations among all employees and personnel. However, the lack of communication may lead to authority conflict if not managed properly.
Convenience of Expansion
Having a three-way authority system in the company facilitates expansion and growth. Specialized employees help the line staff in processes by offering expert advice. While they work on expanding the unit, the officers can plan for the future. Some assistants or new officers may be appointed to expand and delegate tasks.
Better Utilization of Resources
Understanding the difference in the role of staff and line functions makes the best use of the workforce within the organization. The line and staff officers perform their functions smoothly through better coordination and cooperation. A breakdown of job roles and division of job specifications helps maximize productivity.
Every organization needs to make practical decisions timely for progress and success. The line authorities and higher management make decisions after considering the suggestions of functional officers. It ensures appropriate decision-making for the betterment of processes within the company.
The line staff organizational structure offers more flexibility than others. Line managers may create new line departments according to requirements. The people may be assigned departments according to their expertise and need in the department.
Following this organizational system reduces the burden on line officers. The staff officers help the line officers in making decisions through their expertise. The line officers only have to perform the routine work and leave the rest to staff officers. It allows them to look for plans for the growth of the company.
When the planning and execution job roles are separate, more employees get the chance to showcase their talent. They may move higher in the hierarchy by correctly implementing their skills in the processes. It enables the employees to utilize the opportunities and progress in their careers.
Disadvantages of Line and Staff Organization
While better coordination is an advantage of line and staff organizational structure, it can also be the other way. Often the managers are not able to communicate the job roles to the employees. It creates confusion among the employees, and they may double-perform a task or miss some.
Unlike affiliative leadership structures, such organizational structures do not heed the officers’ advice. Staff officers do not have the authority to implement their opinions and recommendations without the line officer’s approval. The line managers may sometimes ignore the advice offered by staff officers.
Authority conflict is a common issue in organizational structures with multiple command officers like matrix and line and staff structures. The improper distribution of authority and responsibility can create problems within the organization. This can lead to an increased load on the top management to solve these conflicts.
High Employee Turnover
Employees do not want to be a part of an organization where their roles are unclear. If the managers treat the employees as a pendulum between them, they will most likely get tired of their job roles. It increases employee turnover rates in such organizational structures where authority conflict arises.
Dependency On Staff
The line and staff structure may promote over-dependence on staff members. The staff officer may plan and implement them with their own judgment without suggestions from others. It will encourage others to follow the same path. Thus, the management’s dependency increases on staff for information.
Functional Authority Inefficiency
The functional staff does not have any direct input in organizational operations. They only impart their suggestions to line authorities. The suggestions and recommendations may not always be accepted. Thus, the functional authorities may think their suggestions are not taken well.
Line and staff organization is an expensive organizational structure. It requires more resources, including finance and infrastructure. It requires recruiting specialized employees who offer guidance to the line and staff officers. More training and development cost is involved in improving staff performance.
Unsuitable for Small Organizations
While many organizations follow a line organization system, a line and staff system is not suitable for small businesses. It requires high capital to recruit experts for the training of staff. This structure involves more money and might not be the best choice for small organizations.
How to Improve Line and Staff Organization?
Every organizational system comes with some pros and cons. However, you can make the best out of it by making adequate changes in the organizational structure.
- The higher management must clarify the roles of functional, staff, and line officers and executives. They must stay within the limit of their authority and act accordingly.
- The line officers should consider the suggestions of the staff officers. The line management must give appropriate reasons in case of rejection.
- Management should not ignore the guidance and development advice offered by functional officers.
- Line and staff officers and managers must understand each other’s work scope and not try to interfere.
The Bottom Line
The Line and Staff Organization is a dual-organization structure with two prominent authorities. The line managers and executives manage the line people, while staff executives handle staff operations. Line managers plan, and staff helps in execution and betterment. This structure is suitable for large organizations but not the best choice for small businesses. It may increase the employee turnover rate if the job roles are unclear. The higher management can help improve line and staff structure by well-defined job roles and considering suggestions of functional officers.
Matthew is a Co-Founder at BusinessFinanceArticles.org. Matthew was a floor manager at a local restaurant in Wales. He lost his job after the pandemic and took initiative to make a team and start the project.
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