The Line and Staff Organisation

Principle & Practice of Management

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The Line and Staff Organisation

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.

staff Organisation

Merits

This from of organisation came to existence as an improvement over the line organisation. The line and staff organisation have removed serious drawbacks of the line organisation.
1. Specialisation: It is based on planned specialisation. The line managers get the benefit of specialised knowledge of the staff specialists at various levels.
2. Encouragement to research and development programmes: The growth of an enterprise depends largely upon various research and development programmes. The staff provides this service to the line departments.
3. Balanced decisions: The line managers may not have specialised knowledge in all areas and due to this line managers may sometimes give wrong orders or pass wrong judgement. The suggestions and advice given by staff manager help them in making rational judgement and balanced decisions.

Demerits

Demerits of the line and staff organisation are as follows:
1. Confusion: It is very difficult to clearly establish the authority and responsibility relationship between the line and staff executives. This creates confusion.
2. Ineffectiveness of the staff: The role of the staff is purely advisory. Since they do not have the power to get their recommendations implemented, the staff services may prove to be ineffective.
3. The conflict between the line and staff: There is generally a conflict between the line and staff executives. The line authorities feel that staff executives do not always give the right type of advice and therefore reject even some very good schemes. Line authorities do not want to give an impression to management that they are in any way inferior to the staff. Thus, there is always a conflict between the line and staff organisations.
The line and staff organisation structure have gained popularity because certain problems of management have become so complex that in order to deal with them, expert knowledge is necessary which can be provided by the staff officers. Whatever drawbacks are there, they are mainly due to its wrong application.