Historically, this is the oldest form of an organisation. This is known by different names, i.e., military, vertical, scalar and departmental. All other types of organisation structure have mostly been modifications of the line organisation. The concept of the line organisation holds that in any organisation derived from a scalar process, there must be a single head who commands it. Although an executive can delegate authority, he has ultimate responsibility for results. According to McFarland, “Line structure consists of the direct vertical relationship which connects the positions and tasks of each level with those above and below it.” According to Allen, “Organisationally, the line is the chain of command that extends from the board of directors through the various delegations and redelegations of authority and responsibility to the point where the primary activities of the enterprise are performed.”
The following special features of the line organisation come up:
1. There are many levels of management depending upon the scale of business and decision-making ability of managers. Each level of management has equal rights.
2. There is a vertical flow of authority and responsibility. The lower positions derive authority from the higher positions.
3. There is a unity of command. Every person is accountable to only one person (his immediate boss) and none else. A person receives orders only from his immediate boss.
4. There is the scalar chain in the line organisation. The flow of orders, communication of suggestions and complaints, etc. are made as it is in the case of a ladder. One cannot defy the claim.
5. There is the limit on subordinates under one manager. A manager has control only over the subordinates of his department.