The line organisation suffers from three main drawbacks, i.e., the heavy burden of work on the line executive, too much concentration of power in the hands of a low line executive and lack of specialisation. In view of these drawbacks, the idea of the line and staff organisation was introduced.
Normally staff means those elements of an organisation that help the line of work most effectively in accomplishing the primary objectives of the enterprise. The staff authority supports those executives who hold the line authority. The staff authority consists of experts and specialists in various fields. The main function of the staff is to help the line executives in such activities which require expert and specialised knowledge. The role of the staff is purely advisory and not authoritative. They have to recommend but have no authority to enforce their preference on subordinates or to issue orders to them. In fact, the function of the line executives is to act and that of the staff is to think and suggest.
In short, the line and staff organisation refer to a pattern in which the staff specialists advise the line managers to perform their duties. Thus, in a firm engaged in the manufacture of dyes and chemicals, the works manager, marketing manager and the finance manager are line officials while functions like personnel management, quality control, public relations and accounting are staff functions. Thus, the line and the staff are two types of organisational relationships.
Following are the characteristics of the line and staff organisation:
1. Managers are of two types—Line Managers and Staff Managers.
2. The Line Managers perform the functions of decision-making, issuing orders and controlling while the Staff Managers perform the functions of advising, assisting and providing expert and specialised services.
3. There is a unity of command.
4. There is a scalar chain.