Line Organization Definition – Characteristics and Types


The line organization can be defined as an organizational structure where authority flows in a direct line in the organization, i.e. from top to bottom, whereas responsibility follows in the opposite direction. That means, each boss is responsible for his immediate subordinates and he is accountable to his superiors.

Meaning of Line Organization

Line organization is the simplest and oldest organizational structure. In the line organization, the authority within the organization flows in vertical form, i.e. from topmost executive to the lowest worker working in the organization.

In the line organization structure, the managers control their direct subordinates through the chain of command. Therefore, it is also known as a chain of command or scalar principle. In the line organization, the authority flows from top to the bottom of the organization through various managerial positions.

In organizations that follow line structure, only line authority exists in such organizations. That means each manager is responsible for his direct subordinates, and he himself is accountable to his superiors.

In line organization, the authority responsibility relationship is very clear to each employee of the organization. Each member of the organization has the full authority to make decisions and to take actions as per the requirement by the situation.

In a line organization, there are different departments to deal with different types of tasks and each department has a head who is responsible for the outcome of the department. He is responsible for the allocation of work to his subordinates and to measure their performance.

authority flows from top-level executives to the people working at the bottom. On the other hand, responsibility flows in the opposite direction. That means, each person working in the organization is responsible for his work and is accountable to his or her immediate boss.

Because in a line organization authority and responsibility flows in a straight line, therefore, it is known as line organization.

The best example of line organization is the military. In the military, there is a commander in chief at the top position, and other officers are at the positions below him. The authority in the military flows from top position to lower positions. In the modern military, there are different departments with different officers in command.

Types of line organization

Types of line organization

There are basically two types of line organizations.

1. Pure Line Organization

In a pure line organization, there are different levels and all people working at the same level perform the same type of work. The different levels in the organization are created for the purpose of control and to maintain discipline.

2. Departmental Line Organization

In a departmental line organization, different departments are created to perform a single type of work. Different departments are created in order to make control work convenient. In the departmental line organization also, there is the unity of control and authority flows from top to the bottom.

Each department has a department head who is responsible for the work of his or her department. However, heads of all departments are also accountable to their superiors. The superiors of departmental heads are referred to as a general manager.

The general manager gives orders directly to the head of the departments. However, the managers of each department work independently. Each department has a separate line of an organization. Each department of the organization has deputy managers, supervisors, and workers. The department head takes orders from the general manager and gives directions to the deputy manager of his department. The deputy manager further shares the information with the supervisors, and so on.

All the department heads of the organization work at the same level and have the same level of authority and status. The information between them is shared through their immediate bosses.


1. Hierarchy

There should be a hierarchy to give commands in the organization. The orders to subordinates are given only by their superiors. A chain of command is important to be followed in a line organization.

2. The single line of command

In a line organization, there is a single line of command. That means, one person gets orders from only one person who is immediately above him or her.

3. Independence for people working at the same level

In a line organization, people working at the same level of authority work independently and information between them is shared through their immediate superiors.

4. Subordinates

Each supervisor or boss in the line organization has the number of subordinates that he or she can manage effectively.


Advantages of line organization

1. Clear identification of authority and responsibility

In a line organization, the responsibilities and authorities of all employees are fixed. The authority is provided to the person, along with the assignment of tasks. The authority should be in accordance with the work assigned.

Similarly, along with authorities, a person also has fixed responsibilities. Therefore, in a line organization, the authority and responsibilities of employees are fixed.

2. Simple structure

Another advantage of line organization is that it is simple in nature and easy to implement. Line organization structure is easy for employees to understand. In a line organization, the level of complexity is either very low or zero as employees are accountable to only one person, i.e. their immediate superior or boss.

In addition to this, in a line organization, all employees have a clear understanding of their work authority and responsibilities as they are clearly defined to them. Therefore, it is easy to operate a line organization.

3. Effective communication

In a line organization, the chain of command goes from top to the bottom. The superiors are directly connected with his subordinates. Both superiors and subordinates have clear and effective communication between each other. The subordinates can convey their opinion and their views to their managers in a short period of time.

4. Better coordination

In a line organization, there is better coordination among the people working in the organization. There is a single person, i.e. general manager in charge of all the activities taking place in different departments of the organization.

On departmental levels, the department managers are responsible for all the activities taking place in the organization. As a result of this, there is better coordination among the people working in the organization.

5. Fast decision-making

In a line organization, there is only one person responsible for making important decisions. He is responsible for taking all the decisions. There is no staff for the consultation. Therefore, decision-making becomes fast, as the manager is not required to spend time taking consultation and opinions of others.

As more people cause more delays in taking decisions. No time is wasted as only the department head takes all the decisions related to the department and the general manager takes all the decisions related to the organization.

6. Economical

Another important advantage of line organization is that it is very cheap to operate, as in a line organization no additional staff members are hired for consultation and advisory.

7. Better control and supervision

The number of subordinates are very few under each manager in a line organization. Therefore, superiors can effectively handle the subordinates under them and can exercise better control over them. There is a direct relationship between the superior and his subordinates in a line organization. In addition to this, subordinates perform better as superiors can constantly keep watch on their subordinates.

8. Single line command

In a line organization, each subordinate is accountable to his immediate supervisor. Therefore, there is a unity of command in the organization.

9. Flexibility

In a line organization, the manager has the freedom to make changes as per the current situation. He is not required to take permission from the above authority whenever he wants to make changes. This results in flexibility in the working.

10. Executive development

Under the line organization, the departmental head is responsible for making and executing decisions. The work of a manager is quite challenging and is required to delegate his work to his executives in an effective way.

In this way, executives get an opportunity to learn several new things from their boss and develop their skills.


Disadvantages of Line organization

1. Lack of specialization

One of the main disadvantages of the line organization is the lack of managerial specialization. There is one line officer hired for the purpose of management. It is not possible for a manager to be an expert in everything.

The quality of business gets affected as the managers are responsible for taking all important decisions regarding the business. The superior will depend on his subordinates in order to make important decisions.

2. The high amount of work on one person

In a line organization, a manager plays a wide role. He is expected to perform a variety of tasks. In addition to making decisions, they are required to manage their subordinates working under them.

The workload keeps on increasing when work is expanded, or more employees are hired. The managers can’t pay proper attention to everything that is taking place in the organization, and because of the overload work on them, their performance gets affected.

3. Improper communication

In a line organization, there are high chances of authorities to turn into autocrats, as they are responsible for taking all important decisions about the organization. They might make decisions without taking into consideration the opinions of their subordinates.

On the other hand, the subordinates implement decisions without commenting even if they find it not in favor of the organization. The subordinates avoid conveying their reactions to their superiors. Such an atmosphere is not good for any organization as it hampers the growth of the organization.

4. Poor coordination

In a line organization, the complete control of one department is given in the hand of the head of the department. Each head of the department tries to run his department in his own way without coordinating with other departments.

As a result of which lack of uniformity of actions takes place among different departments of the organization. Poor coordination can result in the delay of work, and wastage of resources.

5. Favoritism

Favouritism exists in line with organizations. In line organizations, as the power lies in the hands of the head of departments. Therefore, they evaluate the performance of each employee on the basis of their own standards. As a result of which some employees are given advantages, whereas others are ignored.

6. Lack of initiative

In line organization, making important decisions is the job of superiors. Therefore, people working at a lower level might not suggest new ideas or any innovative ideas that they have. They focus on only completing the work assigned to them and not make any additional efforts for the betterment of the organization.

7. Instability

Because line organization depends on the key person. When these key persons leave the organization because of some reasons, the organization becomes unstable.

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