Managing and running an organisation is a challenging job. It requires a team of people to create discipline in an organisation and to get desired work done from them. Every organisation follows a proper hierarchy in which people are controlled, and reporting is done. This organisational hierarchy is formally known as the chain of command.
In this article, you will learn about what is the chain of command, the definition of the chain of command, features of the chain of command, advantages, and disadvantages of chain of command.
What is the chain of command?
The chain of command in an organisation is referred to the different levels of management in the organisation. The top position in the chain of command is held by the CEO or owner of a business, and the front-line workers make the lowest level of the chain of command of the organisation.
The chain of command in an organisation clarifies the sequence of reporting in the organisation. Every employee working in an organisation has knowledge of his authority and the responsibility of reporting. With the help of the chain of command, discipline is created in the organisation.
Employees are placed at different levels of the organisation. The chain of command tightly controls the flow of information and decision-making in an organisation. There are three levels of the chain of command in an organisation, such as Top-level managers, middle-level managers, and front-line managers.
The top-level management consists of a board of directors, CEO, president, vice president, and owner of an organisation. Top-level managers control the whole organisation. They are responsible for deciding the goals and objectives of an organisation. They learn about the external environment, such as a change of technology in the industry, and make decisions for the organisation accordingly. They are also responsible for preparing strategies to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation. They give orders to the managers working at the middle-level of management.
Middle-level managers play an essential role in the organisation. They establish communication between front-line and top-level managers. They take instructions from the top management and pass that information to front-level managers. They supervise the work of front-line managers and make sure that work is being done as required and on time. In addition to this, middle-level managers are also responsible for the allocation of resources to front-line managers.
And the last level of the chain of command in an organisation is the front-line managers. The role of front-line managers in an organisation is to supervise and control the day-to-day activities of employees working in the organisation. They make sure that each employee is completing their work as required and on time. Employees working in the organisation take their problems to the front-line managers, and front-line managers are responsible for providing solutions to them.
The front-line managers actively participate in the day-to-day activities of the organisation. The examples of front-line managers are supervisor, department head, project head, office manager, etc.
Definition of chain of command
The chain of command in an organisation can be defined as a structural hierarchy of authority. A chain of command provides information such as who is in charge of whom? And who should report whom?
Features of chain of command
The followings are features of a chain of command.
1. Rank order
The main feature of the chain of command is the order of ranks in the organisation. Different employees are given different ranks. People with different ranks have different roles to play in the organisation. Rank order creates discipline in the organisation.
2. Accountability of decisions
In a chain of command, people at different levels are given authority to make decisions. People are also accountable for the decisions made by them. That means they will take full responsibility for their decisions.
3. Unity of Command
Another essential feature of the chain of command is the unity of command. The meaning of the unity of command is that only one person can make one decision, and he has the authority to delegate his work to others. Having the unity of command in the organisation avoids the repetition of decision making in the organisation.
4. Standardized language and methods of communication
In an organisation, a standard language should be used for communication purposes among the employees of different levels. A standard language of communication creates a formal environment in the organisation. Along with standardized language, a standardized method of communication is also followed in an organisation.
For example, a front-line manager will report to the middle manager and not directly to top-level management. Similarly, top-level managers give their orders and instructions to middle-level managers. A proper method of communication creates discipline in the organisation and employees know whom to approach in case of emergency without any confusion.
5. Delegation of Authority
Delegation of authority becomes easy when there is a proper chain of command in an organisation. Having a chain of command in the organisation provides clarity to people to whom to give orders and from whom to take instructions.
In this way, a senior manager can delegate his subordinates to attend a meeting on his behalf when he is busy with some other work. Delegation of authority keeps the action moving in an organisation even when somebody is not present.
6. Levels of management
The chain of command helps in creating different levels of management in an organisation. There are three levels of management in an organization, such as top-level management, middle-level management, and lower-level management. Each level of management plays an essential role in the organisation and has a set of duties and authorities.
For example, the role of top-level management is to decide future goals for the organisation and prepare plans and strategies to achieve those goals. The top-level management will be interested in the result and will not get involved in the day-to-day works taking place in the organisation.
Managing the employees and keeping track of the daily activities are job responsibilities the lower-level managers.
7. Feedback rules
The last but not least feature of the chain of command is the feedback rule. The feedback rule is an essential part of the chain of command system in an organisation. The people sitting in power take feedback from the employees working at lower levels to learn about the effectiveness of a decision. Feedbacks helps in improving future decision making.
In addition to this, it shows that people in power care about people working at a lower level. Feedbacks are also taken in an organization in a proper hierarchical order. For example, subordinates will give feedback to front-line managers and not to the top-level managers.
Their complaints are solved by their immediately superior and are taken to upper management if only the lower management is incapable of resolving those issues.
Advantages of chain of command
There are several advantages of the chain of command in an organisation. Because of this reason, many organizations prefer to follow the hierarchy system over other systems. In this section, you will learn about the different advantages of having a chain of command system in an organisation.
- In a chain of the command system, accountability and responsibilities are clearly defined. Each manager is responsible for managing and controlling a group of employees, and he is accountable for their performance.
- Employees of the organisation have the clarity to whom to approach when they need resources to get work done. Similarly, they know without confusion to whom to contact when they want to provide feedback.
- The chain of command eliminates the uncertainty of reporting. In small organizations, all employees report to the owner of the business. But in organizations where there is a large number of employees, it becomes difficult for one person to manage everyone. Therefore, in such scenarios, having different people managing different works helps. Each employee has somebody to report for his work.
- Each employee in the organisation has one boss. They report directly to their boss and ask for assistance from their immediate boss. Each boss will have a boss to whom he is supposed to report.
- With the help of the chain of command, work is done quickly and efficiently as all employees have clearly defined responsibilities and authorities.
- Similarly, the chain of command helps in fast resolution of problems. Because there is no confusion among employees to whom to approach when a problem arises.
- A simple structure of an organisation is created using the chain of the command system. A simple structure helps organize a large number of employees quickly.
- Chain of command not only helpful in maintaining and controlling relationships within the organisation. It also helps in maintaining contact with customers, vendors, and shareholders. The job title of a person will convey his authority and his role in the organisation. For example, a president or vice president is responsible for communicating with shareholders of a company, whereas a frontline manager holds the responsibility to talk with vendors and suppliers of the organisation.
- The chain of command creates discipline in the organisation. Orders will be given by the upper-level managers and are followed by lower-level employees and not vice versa.
- Chain of command enhances the productivity of the organisation, as all employees of the organisation have an explicit knowledge of work they supposed to do. In this way, work is done without the wastage of time and resources.
Disadvantages of the chain of command
- In the chain of the command system, the decision-making responsibilities lie in the hands of people sitting at the top level. Top-level managers are not aware of the problems faced by people working at a lower level, and thus, they usually decide unrealistic goals for the organization.
- The chain of command slows down the decision-making process because of the long chain of hierarchy. A decision that can be quickly taken by a lower-level employee has required the approval of upper management. For example, if an employee ran out of printing ink, he is expected to take the permission of his immediate boss to refill the printing ink.
- Chain of command is difficult to implement in a modern environment because, in present times, the decisions are required to make where there is a need for a decision.
- The chain of command creates customers’ unsatisfaction. Employees at lower levels usually deal with customers’ complaints and problems. But because they are incapable of making the decision themselves, they are required to take the permission of their superior before providing a solution to customers. Because of this, delay in resolution takes place, which leaves customers unsatisfied.