The Line Organisation

Principle & Practice of Management

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The Line Organisation

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.

Line Organisation


The merits of the line organisation are as follows:
1. Simplicity: It is the simplest of all types of organisations. It can be easily established and easily understood by the workers.
2. Clear-cut division of authority and responsibility: The authority and responsibility of every person are clearly defined. Everyone knows as to whom he can issue orders and to whom he is accountable. Further, it is easier to fix up the responsibility if there is any lapse anywhere in the performance of activities.
3. Strong discipline: Because of direct authority-responsibility relationships, discipline can be maintained more effectively. Direct supervision and control also help in maintaining strong discipline among the workers.
4. Unified control: Since the orders are given by one superior, there is no confusion, among the subordinates. This ensures better understanding and quick action.
5. Prompt decisions: As the superiors enjoy full authority, quick decisions are taken by them. Such decisions are executed promptly also.
6. Flexibility: Since each departmental head has sole responsibility for his department, he can easily adjust the organisation according to the changes in the business situation.


The demerits of the line organisation are as follows:
1. The heavy burden of work: Since the departmental head has to look after all the activities of his department, he is overburdened with work. He may neglect some of the duties and there may be some inefficiency in management.
2. The concentration of authority: It is dictatorial in nature as all important powers are concentrated in the hands of a few top executives. If they are not able the enterprise will not be successful.
3. Lack of specialisation: The line organisation suffers from the lack of specialised skill of experts. It is extremely difficult for one person to handle activities of diverse nature. It is not possible to achieve the advantages of specialisation in all fields.
4. Lack of communication: There is the failure to get correct information and to act upon it due to lack of communication. Although there is communication from top to bottom there is usually no communication from the lower ranks to higher ranks and executives. They are not provided with an opportunity to put forward their viewpoint or problems or suggestions to persons at the top level. Thus, they lose their capacity for independent thinking.
5. Scope for favouritism: Since the departmental head is almost all-in-all for the activities of his department. There is scope for favouritism. There may be a good deal of nepotism and jobbery and personal prejudices. The executive may appoint and promote his own men in various positions ignoring the claim of efficient persons.
Despite these drawbacks, the line organisation is still considered as very ideal for small enterprises where the work involved is not of a very complex nature and a number of people are small. It is also, ideal where automatic machines are in use or where talented and capable executives are at the head of various departments. But it is not very successful in large concerns.