Everything you need to know about the line organisational . Line Organisation is the oldest form of organization. This is known by different names, i.e. military, vertical, scalar, departmental organization.

All other types of organization structure have mostly been either modifications of this organization. The concept of line organization holds that in any organization 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.”

Learn about:- 1. Features of Line Organisation 2. Conditions for Success of Line Organisation 3. Merits 4. Demerits 5. Suitability 6. Hierarchy of Authority Levels 7. Branches.

Line or Military Organization: Structure, Features, Characteristics, Merits, Demerits, Suitability and Branches

Line Organization – With Features, Conditions for Success, Merits, Demerits and Suitability

Line organisation is the basic framework for the whole organisation. It represents a direct vertical relationship through which authority flows. This is the simplest and oldest, known as chain of command or scalar principle.


The authority flows from top to the lower levels. Every person is in charge of all the persons under him and he himself is accountable to his superior only. This organisation is a vertical structure where one person delegates authority to his subordinate and who in turn delegates to his subordinate and so on.

Authority flows vertically from top level person to all the persons responsible for the execution of work. Responsibility, on the other hand, flows upwards. Everybody is responsible for his work and is accountable to his boss.

Since authority and responsibility flow in an ‘unbroken straight line’, it is called line organisation. In the words of J.M. Lundy, “It is characterised by direct lines of authority flowing from the top to the bottom of the organisational hierarchy and lines of responsibility flowing in an opposite but equally direct manner.”


This form of organisation is followed in military establishments. The ‘Commander- in-Chief’ is at the top with various other officers at the lower levels. The officers at downward positions derive authority from the top. The modern military organisations do not entirely rely on line organisation. They have staff wings like intelligence, medical and so on.

In line organisation, every manager exercises a direct authority over subordinates who are directly responsible to their superiors. There is thus a hierarchical arrangement of authority. There are no supportive units for accounting, labour, etc. Every manager is required to incorporate these activities in his department.

Features of Line Organisation:

Line organisation has the following features/characteristics:


(i) In line organisation authority flows from the top to the lower levels and responsibility flows upwards.

(ii) Every person is in in charge of persons working under him.

(iii) Each subordinate receives orders only from one superior and is answerable to him only.

(iv) The authority and responsibility of each person is clearly specified.


Conditions for Success:

The system of line organisation will be successful if following conditions are present:

1. There should be a hierarchical arrangement of giving commands. The subordinates should get commands only through their immediate superiors. The links in the chain of command should not be skipped. This type of organisation helps in co-ordination and control.

2. There should be a single line of command. One person should get orders from one supervisor only.


3. All persons at the same level of authority should be independent of one another.

4. The number of subordinates should be such that they are properly supervised.

Merits of Line Organisation:

The line organisation has the following good points:


1. Simplicity:

Line organisation is simple to establish and can be easily understood by the employees. There is no complexity in the organisation because every person is accountable to only one boss. Everybody knows his work and also to whom he is responsible. So it can be operated simply and clearly.

2. Identification of Authority and Responsibility:

Line organisation helps in fixing authority and responsibility of each and every person in the organisation. The authority is given with reference to the assignment of task. The authority should be commensurate with the work assigned. The allocation of work will also help in fixing responsibility of various individuals. So line organisation enables the fixation of authority and responsibility.


3. Co-Ordination:

The hierarchy in management helps in achieving effective co­ordination. The general manager is in charge of all the departments and he can easily co-ordinate the work of various departments. At departmental level manager is in charge and he can direct the activities of his juniors.

4. Effective Communication:

The chain of command goes from top to bottom. There is a direct link between the superior and his subordinate, both can communicate properly among themselves. The reactions of subordinates also reach top management in a short span of time.

5. Economical:

Line organisation is easy to operate and less expensive. There are no staff personnel to advice line officers. Line officers take their own decisions without looking to specialised personnel. This greatly reduces the establishment cost.


6. Quick Decisions:

Only one person is in charge of a department or division. He has to take various decisions by himself. There are no staff personnel for consultation too. This enables a manager to take prompt decisions. If a decision making process involves the consultation of a number of persons then there are likely to be delays in deciding things. In line organisation only departmental head is required to take decisions and he will not waste time in deciding things.

7. Unity of Command:

In line organisation every person is under the command of one boss only. This type of organisation is in accordance with the principle of scalar chain.

8. Effective Control and Supervision:

The number of subordinates is limited under line organisation. The superior can exercise effective control and supervise over the persons under him. There is a direct link between superior and subordinates. This also helps in having better control because the subordinates will be under constant watch.


9. Executive Development:

Under this system the departmental head is involved in taking and executing various decisions. His task is challenging and he is expected to discharge his responsibility in an efficient way. This helps an executive to learn many things and develop his capabilities.

10. Flexibility:

Since the manager has to take all important decisions, he can make changes if new situation warrants. He need not to waste time in getting instructions from above. He can take a decision according to the requirements of the situation.

Demerits of Line Organisation:

Line organisation suffers from a number of drawbacks. Some of these drawbacks have been discussed here:


1. Excess Work:

In line organisation too much is expected from executives. They are expected to take numerous decisions and supervise the work of subordinates under them. The work load of executives goes on increasing with the expansion and diversification of the unit. The line office cannot devote sufficient time to each and every work and are over loaded with responsibilities.

2. Lack of Specialisation:

The lack of managerial specialisation is the demerit of line organisation. The line officers cannot be experts in every line of business. Since they are to take decisions with regard to every aspect of business, the quality of decisions may suffer. The officers will have to depend heavily on subordinates for advice.

3. Lack of Co-Ordination:

There is a lack of co-ordination among various departments. All departmental heads try to run the departments in their own way and according to their suitability. There may be a lack of operational uniformity among various departments. This may become the reason for lack of co-ordination among different departments. This may become the reason for lack of co-ordination among different departments.


4. Improper Communication:

The ultimate authority for taking all decisions lies with line officers. The line officers may become autocratic and start deciding things without consulting their subordinates. The subordinates start keeping distance from the superiors. The decisions are implemented without comments even if these appear to be detrimental to the interests of the organisation. The subordinates do not convey their reactions or the reactions of workers to the superiors. The lack of communication creates many problems for the smooth conduct of business.

5. Lack of Initiative:

In line organisation final decision-making is done by the top management. The lower level officials do not show initiative in suggesting new things. They feel that their suggestions may not carry weight with their superiors so they avoid taking any type of initiative.

6. Favouritism:

There is a scope for favouritism in line organisation. The officers work according to their whims and preferences. They judge the performance of persons according to their own likings. They judge the performance of persons according to their own yardsticks. There is a likelihood that some persons may be given favours and deserving persons, on the other hand, may be ignored.


7. Instability:

The business is dependent upon some key persons and the sudden disappearance of such persons from the scene may create instability in the business. There is also a lack of grooming the new persons for taking up important work. The managerial growth also suffers because lower level persons are not involved in decision-making process.

Suitability of Line Organisation:

Line Organisation is suitable in the following cases:

(i) Where the business is on a small scale and number of subordinates is less.

(ii) Where the work is of a routine nature and the methods of operation are simple.

(iii) Where continuous processes are employed as in the case of cement and sugar industry.

(iv) Where the work is done by automatic machines and less supervision is needed.

Line Organization – Hierarchy of Authority Levels, Branches of Line Organisation, Merits, Demerits and Suitability of Line Organisation

Hierarchy of Authority Levels:

It is by far the oldest form of organization. Under it, the persons having the greater decision-making authority are placed at the top, and those having the least decision-making authority at the bottom. In between, there are other levels of management, such as intermediate and supervisory.

Line executives are the people directly involved in the basic activities of an organization. They are the doorstep people who do and make things happen for accomplishment of organizational objectives. They constitute the backbone of an organization.

Flow of Authority from Top to Bottom; Accountability of Each Subordinate:

The manager at each level makes decisions within the scope of authority delegated to him by his own boss. He communicates his decisions and orders to his subordinates. Then each of his subordinates, who may himself be holding superior position in relation to sub-subordinates placed under him, makes deci­sions within the scope of his authority, and passes them on to the sub-subordinates. And so it goes on.

Each person in the ‘organization structure’ has authority over subordinates holding positions lower than him. Similarly, each person derives authority from the superior above him. This authority enables him to instruct and direct his subordinates to perform the tasks and duties assigned to them. Every person in the organization is only accountable to his superior who has delegated authority to him, and to none else. Any departure from this scheme may create problems.

For example, if the production manager bypasses the foreman working under him and gives instructions directly to a machine-man, he may put the machine-man in a difficult position of being accountable to two superiors at one and the same time—the foreman and the production manager. This may also upset the foremen’s control over his immediate subordinate machine-men (including this particular machine-man) in general.

In the line organization there is a vertical line of authority. For this reason, it is given the name “line organization”. And because the army is known to be organized on the same pattern, it is also called “military organization.”

Branches of Line Organization:

The line organization again can be of two kinds:

(a) Pure line organization, and

(b) Departmental line organization.

(a) Pure Line Organization:

In a pure line organization, at every level of work, all the individuals perform the same type of work. Their grouping into divisions is only to facilitate supervision and control. For example, at the lowest levels, all workers may perform a similar activity, but for control and supervision they may be divided into different groups, each placed under a foreman.

(b) Departmental Line Organization:

In a departmental line organization, there is a chief executive at the top. Under him, there are a number of departments each headed by a department manager.

Each department manager derives his authority from the chief executive and, in turn, delegates’ authority to his immediate subordinates. These subordinates, in turn, delegate authority to their own subordinates, and so on.

Department Managers Function Independently of One Another:

All department managers enjoy equal status and authority; also, they function independently of one another. The production manager, for example, will not interfere in the decision-making by sales man­ager, or finance manager, and vice-versa. Even within a department, there may be several sub-depart­ments or units.

Thus, in the production department, there may be a number of foremen each having a number of workers under him. But as between one foreman and another, there is no formal line of authority or responsibility. Each foreman is supposed to take his orders from the production manager and is accountable to him for planning and execution of the work assigned to him.

Subordinates can only Approach Immediate Superior:

Workers placed under a foreman have no direct access to production manager. Their boss is the foreman to whom they communicate their problems and suggestions and from whom they receive their orders.

What happens when a department manager wants to pass some message to a subordinate in another department? No, he cannot have any direct communication with the said subordinate. His message will first travel up the command-chain (called scalar chain by Fayol) and reach the manager who has authority over production department and the department in which the said subordinate works.

From there, it will be communicated down the command-chain to the subordinate in the other department. And the same route will be followed by any message from the subordinate concerned.

Inter-Departmental Communication:

Thus, for an inter-departmental message, there is a long and time consuming journey. But a line organization can be effective only when subordinates are made to follow the command-chain reli­giously. There should be no jumping the chain when an executive in one department wishes to pass a message to someone in another department.

Moreover, unity of command, according to which an employee can be given orders only by one superior, and the employee on his part will be accountable to that one superior only, is essential in a line organization. Further, the span of supervision theory says no executive in a line organization should be burdened with supervising more than a manage­able number of subordinates.

Merits of Line Organization:

(1) Simple:

A line organization is easy to establish. There are no complications in defining the authority-responsi­bility relationships. A manager can only order his immediate subordinates, and for the subordinates the dictate is “First obey, and then argue”. Moreover, it is easily understood by workers.

(2) Clear Division of Authority and Responsibility:

There is clear definition of authority-responsibility of each individual employee. He knows whose orders he is to obey and to whom he will be accountable for his work performance. No employee has more than one manager to order him and no manager can order an employee who is not his subordinate.

(3) Unity of Control:

Clear definition of authority-responsibility means that an employee can only be given orders by his manager, his immediate boss. He does not have to carry out orders of two or more managers, thus clearing any confusion about whose orders to give priority in performance.

(4) Speedy Action:

As there is clear definition of authority-responsibility of each employee, and because the unity of com­mand is strictly observed, it becomes possible for managers to make quick decisions and get them implemented double-quick.

(5) Flexibility:

Each manager knows what he is required to do. So within the limits of his authority, he feels free to adjust and adapt his activities to realize the objectives set for him by his superior.

Demerits of Line Organization:

(1) Lack of Specialization:

Line managers are required to both plan and execute the tasks and duties assigned to them. This means relying a little too much on their individual capability, knowledge and experience. Not all managers can come up to this expectation. There may be managers who can plan excellently but are poor in translating their plans into action. And others may be good at execution but not so when it comes to planning. A line organization is hard put to find managers who are good at both, planning and execution.

(2) Key Managers are Overburdened:

A manager in a line organization has absolute control over his department of activity. Also, he alone is accountable for performance of his department. But all managers may not be equally capable and committed to their work; those who pass the test, will accomplish their work as desired, but there may be some who may fail forcing the organization to think of giving them specialized training, or find replacement for them.

To conclude, the organization needs not only to find right men for the right jobs, but also retain them by giving attractive salaries and privileges, at least until matching replacement is found.

(3) Limited Superior-Subordinate Communication:

A line organization generally does not encourage subordinates to communicate with their managers. They are only required to do as told to them by respective managers. Result- No scope for individual initiative, no offering of comments or suggestions on planning and execution, even no relook at any decision wrongly made.

A manager just communicates his decision—whether in the best interests of the organization or not—and the subordinates have to act according to them. Many subordinates do so because they lack ability to judge whether the decision is right or wrong, but the mischievous ones among them may carry out even apparently wrong decisions to pinpoint the incompetence of manager.

(4) Line Manager may Take Decisions Arbitrarily:

A line manager has authority to make decisions. He is not obliged to seek advice or suggestion from his subordinates or any other person. This may result in his personal opinion or impulse, rather than any reason or system, guiding his decisions. The decisions may lack objectivity.

Suitability of ‘Line Organization’:

Even though marked by lack of specialization, overburdening of competent managers, absence of communication between managers and subordinates, and subjective element in decision-making, line system of organization will suit businesses which are small in size, or where the work involved is of a routine nature, or machine-based.

It is a different matter though that our armed forces, particularly the army, are increasingly asked to rescue civilians in times of natural or man-made disasters, such as floods (remember, Mumbai, Chennai, Uttarakhand, and Allahabad), earthquake (remember, Nepal and Uttarakhand), civil strife (remember, handling separatists in Kashmir and insurgents in Chhatisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh). Or, airlifting Indians from strife-torn foreign countries (remember, Libya and Afghanistan).

Line Organization – With Merits, Demerits and Suitability

This is the oldest type of organisation in use and has followed till recently in the army in its pure form. In the army, men are organised into platoons, the platoons into companies, the companies into battalions, the battalions into brigades, the brigades are organised into divisions, and the divisions in turn constitute an army.

Each unit is placed under a commander and his word is final as far as his subordinates are concerned. The Christian Church has also been organised in a similar manner. In recent times, however, the military organisations have undergone changes similar to those occurring in the industrial and other organisations. The term military organisation is, therefore, rather misleading.

Under this system, authority flows from the men at the top to the lowest man vertically. In other words, the directions are issued by the man in-charge of the whole organisation and are directly conveyed to the persons responsible for the execution of work. This makes the line of authority straight and vertical.

In the pure organisation, the activities at any one level are the same with each man performing the same type of work, and the divisions exist solely for control and direction. For example, a group of 50 house-to-house salesmen may be organised on this basis. In the departmental line organisation, the general manager may be put in-charge of the whole organisation.

The business unit may be divided into departments headed by departmental heads. A departmental head receives orders from the general manager and passes them on to his immediate subordinates. The subordinates may similarly communicate the order to the workers.

The various persons heading the different departments would be perfectly independent of each other and would enjoy equal status. In an industrial concern, for instance, a foreman neither receives any instructions from, nor issues commands to, another foreman. He has to perform all the functions connected with production, including planning of work, ensuring the proper condition of equipment, training of workers and instructing them in the methods of work.

Further promotion of the workers would depend upon the reports made about them by the foreman concerned. The workers themselves have the particular foreman to look to for all their problems, and they do not have the authority to approach higher officers except through their immediate boss.

In case, the manager of one department wishes to issue guidance or directions to a subordinate in another department, he will go up the line and convey the message to the top manager who will then pass it down the line in the other department.

Thus if the Finance Manager has to convey something to a superintendent in the production department, he will have to send the word upwards to the General Manager and the General Manager will then pass it down to the Production Manager and the Production Manager will further pass it down to the Superintendent concerned.

Prof. Florence enunciates three principles which are necessary to realise the advantages of this system, and the non-observance of which would involve inefficiency. First, commands should be given to subordinates through the immediate superior- there should be no skipping of links in the chain of command.

Secondly, there should be only one chain, i.e., command should be received from only one immediate superior. Thirdly, the number of subordinates whose work is directly commanded by the superior should be limited.


The line organisation has the following important merits not usually found in other types of organisation:

(i) Simplicity – It is the easiest to establish and simplest to explain to the employees.

(ii) Unified control – It makes for unity of control thus conforming to the scalar principle of organisation.

(iii) Strong discipline – It ensures excellent discipline. This is because of unified control. The subordinates have no doubt regarding the person from whom they receive instructions. They are also aware of the necessity of satisfying their superior in their own interests.

(iv) Fixed responsibility – Everybody in this type of organisation knows to whom he is responsible, and who are responsible to him.

(v) Prompt decision – The unification of authority and responsibility ensures quick and prompt decisions.

(vi) Flexibility – Since each executive has sole responsibility in his own position and sphere of work, he can easily adjust the organisation to changes in the business situation.


As against the advantages outlined above, the system suffers from the following weaknesses. Some of them are inherent while some others are due to peculiar failings of human beings.

(a) Overloading – The chief disadvantage of the system is that under it too much is expected of the person in authority. Since all work is done according to the wishes of one person alone, the efficiency of the whole department will come to depend upon the qualities of management displayed by the head of that department.

There are no better examples than those of history. Good and efficient emperors were able to achieve a great deal whereas an inefficient and weak emperor spoilt everything. If, therefore, something happens to an efficient manager, the future of the department and of the concern as a whole would be in jeopardy.

(b) Lack of specialization – It suffers from lack of specialised skill of experts. Modern business is so complex that it is extremely difficult for one person to carry in his head all the necessary details about his work in his department. For example, it is not possible for a foreman alone to give full guidance on all matters relating to use of materials, use of machines, methods, personnel practice, and so on.

(c) Inadequacy of communication – There is a failure to get correct information and to act upon it. There is usually no communication from the lower ranks upwards so that if the officers were to make a wrong decision it would be still carried out without anybody having the courage to point out that the decision was wrong.

Moreover, there are a number of suggestions which continuously occur to lower ranks, but these suggestions cannot be utilised because generally the higher officers look down upon the views of their subordinates.

(d) Scope for favouritism – There may be a good deal of nepotism and jobbery. Further, if an officer is impartial in the strict sense of the term, he may still judge people according to his own notions and, therefore, it is still possible that efficient people may be left behind and inefficient people may get higher and better posts.


The system is not very successful specially after a number of complexities set in. It suffers from the drawbacks of autocratic control. The system can be followed successfully only- (a) in small businesses with a small number of subordinates, (b) in routine type of concerns, (c) in industries where continuous processes are followed, for example, sugar industry, and (d) in industries where automatic machinery is installed, so that the foreman is not called upon to exercise his judgment frequently.

Line Organization – With Features, Advantages and Limitations

This is the oldest form of organization. This is known by different names, i.e. military, vertical, scalar, departmental organization. All other types of organization structure have mostly been either modifications of this organization. The concept of line organization holds that in any organization 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, “Organizationally, the line is the chain of command that extends from the board of directors through the various delegations and re-delegation of authority and responsibility to the point where the primary activities of the enterprise are performed.”

Features of Line Organization:

(i) 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,

(ii) There is vertical flow of authority and responsibility. The lower positions derive authority from the positions above them.

(iii) There is unity of command. Every person is accountable to only one person i.e. immediate boss. A person receives orders only from his immediate boss.

(iv) There is scalar chain in line organization. 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.

(v) There is limit on subordinates under one manager. A manager has control only over the subordinates of his department.

(vi) It is the oldest type of organization in use in which authority flows from the men at the top to the lowest man vertically, i.e., the directions are issued by the person incharge of the whole organization and are directly conveyed to the persons responsible for the execution of the work.

(vii) There is a hierarchical arrangement of authority.

(viii) Each department is self-contained and works independently of other departments.

(ix) Lines of authority are vertical i.e. from top to bottom.

(x) There are no staff specialists.

Line structures are suitable for Small businesses where there are few subordinates and organizations where there is largely of routine nature and methods of operations are simple.


i. Simplicity- Simple to understand and develop. It is the simplest of all types of organizations. It can be easily established and easily understood by the workers.

ii. Clear-cut division of authority and responsibility- The authority and responsibility of every person is 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.

iii. Strong Discipline- Because of direct authority-responsibility relationships, discipline can be maintained more effectively. Direct supervision and control also helps in maintaining strong discipline among the workers.

iv. Unified Control- Since the orders are given by one superior, there is no confusion among the subordinates. This ensures better understanding and quick action.

v. Prompt Decisions- As the superiors enjoy full authority, quick decisions are taken by them. Such decisions are executed promptly also.

vi. Flexibility- Since each departmental head has sole responsibility for his department, he can easily adjust the organization to changes in business situation.

vii. Communication- Communication is fast and easy as there is only vertical flow of communication.


(i) Heavy Burden of Work- Since the departmental head has to look after all the activities of his department, he is over burdened with work. He may neglect some of the duties and there may be inefficiency in management.

(ii) 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.

(iii) Lack of Specialization- Line organisation suffers from 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.

(iv) Lack of Communication- There is 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 view point or problems or suggestions to persons at the top level. Thus, they lose their capacity for independence thinking.

(v) 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.

Line Organization – With Characteristics, Types of Line Organisation, Advantages, Disadvantages and Suitability

Line or military type of organisation is the oldest type of organisation. This type is also known as scalar organisation. In line organisation, each department is generally a complete self- sustaining unit. Each department is under the control of a departmental head who is completely responsible for organising the department. Above all the departmental heads, there is a general manager to whom all the department heads are responsible. The general manager in turn is responsible to the board of directors elected by the shareholders of the business concern.

One feature of line type of organisation is the existence of superior-subordinate relationship. A superior delegates authority to a subordinate who in turn delegates authority to his subordinates and so on. Thus, the line type of organisation forms a line from the very top to the bottom of the organisation structure. Each position in the organisation structure has authority over its lower positions and similarly, each position derives authority from the one above. At each level, the superior makes decisions within the scope of authority derived by him from his own boss.

Characteristics of Line Organisation:

1. It consists of direct vertical relationships.

2. Departmental head is given full freedom to manage his department.

3. It does not make provision for staff specialists.

4. Operation of this system is simple.

5. Existence of superior-subordinate relationship.

6. Instruction is given by the boss directly to his subordinates.

7. Superior at each level makes decisions within the scope of his authority.

Type of Line Organisation:

The line organisation can be of two types, viz.:

(a) Pure line organisation and

(b) Departmental line organisation.

(a) Pure Line Organisation:

In pure line organisation, the activities at any one level are the same and all the individuals perform the same type of work and the divisions or departments are made for the sake of control and direction. For example, at the lowest level of an organisation, workers may be performing a similar type of work, but for the sake of control and supervision, they may be divided into different groups and each group is placed under the control of a foreman.

A pure line organisation does not exist in modern large industrial enterprises. This is suitable only for businesses which are run on a small-scale producing only one item and in which the workers are divided into departments according to the type of work performed by each one of them.

(b) Departmental Line Organisation:

In this type of organisation, the whole unit is divided into different departments that are convenient for control purposes. Each department is under the control of a departmental manager who is responsible to the superior over him. All the departmental managers enjoy equal status and work independently. Again, even within a department, there may be several sub-departments. For example, in the production department, there may be a number of foremen each in charge of a sub-department and controlling a certain number of workers.

Each foreman works independently, without any formal line of authority or responsibility with other foremen and takes orders from his superior or superintendent to whom he is directly responsible. The workers placed under a foreman get all their orders from their own foreman and they have no direct access to the factory superintendent. Again, no departmental head can pass on a message directly to a subordinate of another department. The message can be passed on only through the manager who has the authority over both the departments.

Advantages of Line Organisation:

Some of the advantages of line organisation are as follows:

(a) Simplicity – It is easy to establish and operate. It is also easy to explain to the workers.

(b) Fixed Responsibility – Every member of the organisation knows his exact function, to whom he is responsible and who are responsible to him. Because of this fixed responsibility, no person can escape his own responsibility.

(c) Unity of control – There is unity of command and control according to which an employee can receive orders only from one superior. It means a subordinate is responsible to only one superior.

(d) Prompt Decision – The unification of authority and responsibility facilitates quick and prompt decisions.

(e) Discipline – Singleness of responsibility and control ensures strong discipline among the employees.

(f) Flexibility – This type of organisation is elastic. The adjustments in the organisation can be easily made to suit the changing conditions.

(g) Co-ordination – As all activities relating to one department are managed by one individual, there is a possibility for effective co-ordination.

(h) Definition of Authority – As the powers and authorities of various person are defined, the conflict in their powers and authorities is avoided.

(i) Less Expensive – It is less expensive as no expenditure on staff personnel is involved.

Disadvantages of Line Organisation:

(a) Lack of Specialisation – As one person looks after all the work relating to his department, there is no scope for specialisation.

(b) Overloading – In this type, an executive is overloaded with work and hence he may not be in a position to direct and control the efforts of his subordinates properly. This leads to the losing of economies to scale.

(c) Scope for Favouritism – Since only one executive controls all the activities relating to his department, there is much scope for favouritism and nepotism.

(d) Limited Communication – In this type, there is no communication from subordinates upwards and the workers should follow the orders of superiors, without expressing any opinion about the orders communicated to them. This affects their creativity and capacity for independent thinking. Further, if superiors were to make a wrong decision, it would still be carried out, because the subordinates are afraid of pointing out that the decision is wrong.

(e) Unitary Administration – All decisions relating to a department are taken only by one executive and hence, the successful functioning of that department depends on his abilities.

(f) Lack of Co-operation – One executive controls the various activities of a department and gets undue importance while the importance of other people in the department is not recognised. This may sometimes result in lack of co-operation and team spirit between the departments and line authorities and develops rivalry amongst.

Suitability of Line Organisation:

In spite of many limitations, the importance of line organisation cannot be minimised. It is suitable for concerns.

(i) Which are run on a small scale;

(ii) Which do not have many subordinates and operatives;

(iii) Which have straight and simple methods of operations; and

(iv) Which are engaged in the work which is largely of a routine nature.

Line Organization – With Advantages and Disadvantages

The line organisation represents the structure in a direct vertical relationship through which authority flows. It is the simplest form of organisation structure and is also known as scalar or military organisation. Under this, the line of authority flows vertically downward from top to bottom throughout the organization. The quantum of authority is highest at the top and reduces at each successive level down the hierarchy.

Every person in the organization is in the direct chain of command. In line organisation, the line of authority consists of an uninterrupted series of authority steps and forms a hierarchical arrangement. The line authority not only becomes the avenue of command to operating personnel, but also provides the channel of communication, coordination and accountability in enterprise.

Advantages of Line Organization:

The merits of line organisation are as follows:

(i) It is very easy to establish line organization and it can be easily understood by the employees.

(ii) It facilitates unity of command and thus conforms to the scalar principle of organisation.

(iii) There is clear-cut identification of authority and responsibility relationship. Employees are fully aware of the boundaries of their jobs.

(iv) It ensures excellent discipline in the enterprise because every—individual knows to whom he is responsible.

(v) It facilitates prompt decision-making because there is definite authority at every level. An executive cannot shift his decision-making to others, nor can the blame be shifted.

Disadvantages of Line Organization:

The demerits of line organization are as under:

(i) With growth, the line organization makes the superiors too overloaded with work. If the executives try to keep up with every activity, they are bogged down in myriad details and are unable to pay proper attention to each one. It will hamper their effectiveness.

(ii) There is concentration of authority at the top. If the top executives are not capable, the enterprise will not be successful.

(iii) Line organization is not suitable to big organizations because it does not provide specialists in the structure. Many jobs require specialized knowledge to perform them.

(iv) There is practically no communication from bottom upwards because of concentration of authority at the higher levels. If superiors take a wrong decision, it would be carried out without anybody having the courage to point out its deficiencies.

In spite of these drawbacks, the line organisation structure is very popular particularly in small organisations where there are less number of levels of authority and a small number of people. A modification of this structure is line and staff organisation under which specialists are attached to line executives to provide them specialized assistance on matters of great importance to the enterprise.

Line Organization – With Characteristics and Types

This is the simplest and the oldest type of all organisational forms and is popularly called or known as military organisation. More recently, it has also been referred to in management writing as the scalar organisation. Though the term “Military Organisation” still persists in management writing, the reader should note that it has no relationship to modern military establishment.

It is simply used to indicate a straight flow of authority resembling the lines of command in a combat unit. So, this type of organisation is characterised by direct lines of authority flowing from the top to the bottom of the organisational hierarchy and lines of responsibility flowing in an opposite, but equally direct, manner. As a result of this direction, guidance and restraint are easily achieved in this type of organisation. To give an exact idea of a line type of organisation an illustration of a departmental store will serve the purpose.

Characteristics of Line Organisation:

(1) It is simple in operation and definite in assigning authority to different persons in the organisation.

(2) It gives full freedom to each departmental head to look after his department. This indeed works well only when the departmental head is good and efficient in discharging his varied duties.

(3) Instructions are given direct from the boss to his subordinate enabling instructions to move in a direct line without any interruption.

(4) There is no question as to responsibility or authority. Every unit is complete in itself as far as the functions are concerned.

(5) Co-ordination between different units is being achieved by co-operation between departmental heads or executives responsible to conduct different units.

Thus, this system can be successfully practised where:

(a) The business is carried on a small scale with a small number of subordinates and operatives.

(b) The methods of operation are straight and simple so that the management, with the help of automatic machinery, can conduct its operations without depending much upon the intelligence of foreman;

(c) It is not difficult to handle problems pertaining to the labour management; and

(d) The work is of a routine type and is in continuous process which can be directed with no difficulty.

Types of Line Organisation:

(I) The Pure Line Organisation:

Under this organisation, activities on any one level are the same. Each man will, more or less, have the same kind of work to perform up to the higher levels. Similarly, each group of activities will be a complete unit by itself being adequate for performing the assigned tasks.

(II) The Departmental Line Organisation:

This type of organisation is largely existing in modern industry. Under this, the whole enterprise is divided into different departments for achieving maximum amount of convenience in controlling the whole enterprise. In setting the departments, the similarity of function is taken into account.

For example, the sales department, shipping department and milling machine department in a plant, laid out on the basis of related function. Each of these departments will report directly to the supervisor above them.

Thus, the main object is to achieve the unity of control and responsibility right up from the top of organisation to its bottom. It is also worth mentioning here that the co-ordination on the basis of co­operation is rather enforced by the supervisor who will be in charge of two or three units.