Chain of Command

A chain of command refers to the formal line of authority within an organization, which makes all individuals answerable to a particular supervisor. This form of communication is depicted in the organizational chart of an organization from the top management to the low management. As a result, this form of communication identifies the distinction between a superior and a subordinate. This form of communication emanates from the classical theory where the line of authority is clearly spelt out in terms of responsibility and role allocation within an organization. The adoption of this form of communication within the organization fosters the need for unity of command. This is an instance where the subordinate ought to report only to a single supervisor reducing conflicts of interest in the course of work. The CEO or organization owner, who is responsible for the overall allocation of duties and responsibilities, occupies mostly the top position of the organization. In the lower levels any leader, there are subordinates who are led by a particular leader and may ask for any assistance or report problems from him or her (Scanlan, 1998).

Since the inception of the concept by Henry Fayol and Max Weber with regard to how organizations handles management, this idea of the chain of command has been widely used since the ancient times in supervision of organization. Under the fourteen principles of management, Henry Fayol demonstrates the role of Chain of command outcomes in facilitating unity of command. In his theory, he illustrates that a subordinate is suppose to report to a single supervisor with regard to their responsibilities in the organization. With this idea, the subordinates will minimize chances of conflicting orders from multiple supervisors. Similarly, the organization activities would occur in clear and define the manner in relation to the vertical form of leadership. As a result, this would reduce time wastage and resource misuse in the organization. On the other hand, Weber illustrated the need of adopting bureaucracy within the organization as a form of effective leadership. This concept goes in line with the need of the chain of command but with the focus on delivery of organization goals and objectives rather than the management of staff. These two great players in the classical theory of management have contributed significantly on the importance of adoption of the concept and the need to refine it to meet the organizations’ ideals.

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The use of the chain of command as a form of communication within the organization is to enhance the relationships that exist among the supervisors and the subordinates. The supervisors should deliver the measured duties of each subordinate, while the subordinates play the crucial role in fulfilling the allocated orders. Additionally, in the course of production or order processing, the supervisor monitors the progress and he or she would adequately deal with any problem that might arise. However, this form of communication might enhance or worsen the relationship of the subordinates and the supervisors; its measurement is based on the level of contribution to the organization. Thus, proper measures must be instituted to regulate the adversity of the outcome of the communication approach (Osland, 2007).

Since the adoption of the chain of command illustrates the need of hierarchy in an organization, a clear layout of organizational structure is defined. In this regard, the organization leadership is indicated from the top management to the low-level management. This structure defines how responsibilities are to be distributed and who does them within the organization. Additionally, the organization establishes who is answerable to whom within the structure. As a result, the organization members understand clearly their roles within the organization and possible ways of ensuring that they meet their expectations.

Since the roles are clearly defined within an organization structure, the members of the organization clearly understands their responsibilities and authorities in the firm. The chain of command illustrates which part of the organization does each employee contributes. This process measures the effort of the employees through the supervisors who monitor them in ensuring high productivity and compliance to organization objectives. In this regard, employees understand the roles they have to fulfill and the manner they are supposed to execute it (Legge, 2005).

A clearly instituted chain of command enhances efficiency within the organization in terms of responsibility fulfillment. This is mainly witnessed in terms of communication process amongst workers, which is aimed at achieving the organizational goals. Additionally, when reporting problems, workers have a well-laid structure to follow. The appropriate supervisor can easily handle any problem identified amongst the workers in the lower level. As a result, the adversity of problems within the organization can be minimized. In this regard, the top management of the organization focuses on the central issues of strategic management. Therefore, the management of the organization will minimize employees’ conflict and failure of operational units.

Despite the effectiveness offered by the chain of command to the employees within the organization, there exist some weaknesses in its adoption. The monotony of the system within the organization considerably affects some employees’ morale. The notion of employees not sticking to the set structure of the organization is prevalent which may, in turn, affect the supervisors and managers. This is enhanced by the fact that such employees create a sense of uncertainty and problems within the organization structure. While on extreme ends, such exposure to low morale promotes labor turnover and decrease productivity. These factors are crucial towards the realization of the organization goals and thus should be tackled amicably following the appropriate policies established within the organization.

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For employees who feel that their problems are not being fully addressed by their supervisor, they may seek to take the problems to the higher chain of command. This problem mainly emanates from the fact the supervisor may fail to act appropriately to the concerns of the employees, which worsen the conditions of the individuals involved in the enactment of orders. This is contributed by the fact that supervisors may regard the employees concerns with less importance unexpected by the employee. In some cases, the supervisors could misuse their responsibilities in ensuring that the execution of tasks is as expected. Some of the majors concerns relate to the offer of vacations, monitoring of the workflow and evaluation of the performance of the subordinates (Hitt, 2011). Additionally, the fact that the supervisor has all authority in the tasks allocated, he or she may use it to humiliate his or her subordinates. The form of humiliation that subordinates could raise includes harassment, unethical conduct or abuses of organizational privileges. In this regard, the employees develop mistrust and loyalty to their supervisor and retaliation emanates. This form of weakness of the chain of command interferes with the enhancement of organization performances through target of the goals established.

To counter the effects of chain of command in the organization, some firms could resort to structures that enhance flexibility and quick response to changes. This is portrayed by the fact that organizations that adopt chain of command do not have flexibility and ease, which is essential in adopting the rapidly changing environments. As indicated by the fixed policies and regulations that should be followed in the particular organization that adopts chain of command, the organization, changes become very difficult to incorporate within the firm. This implies its general uses do not merge the needs of the dynamic organizations. Nevertheless, these organizations could streamline the chain of command to adopt some degree of bureaucracy, which facilitate the productivity of the employees. In this regard, the organization adopts the chain of command that encompasses the need to enhance decision-making in all levels of authority. Additionally, radical response structures are essential to incorporate any changes that improve organization’s performance (Schermerhorn, 2000).


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For the organizations to promote this form of quick-change response, flatter hierarchy of organizations should be incorporated within the organization. This implies that all managers under the same bar could effectively interact when necessary and contribute in decision-making. As a result, this plan affects the whole organization decision-making. In this regard, the employees will appreciate the unity of command, since all employees contribute uniformly in the making of decisions within the organization. While for employees who are responsible for enactment of the orders delivered to them by their supervisors, their activities are smoothen by conformation to the changes necessary in the market. This major crucial component of chain of command demonstrates the level of efficiency, which can be earned by streamlining the organizational structure. In addition, many problems prevalent in the classical form of chain of command are eliminated.

In spite of the efficiencies prevalent in the chain of command form of organizational structure, the matrix form of structure could be incorporated to it. This is a situation where the employees are answerable to at most two supervisors. Despite the fact this form of structure violates the terms of chain of command, there exist multiple relationship that exist between the two. From the characteristics of the chain of command where the employee is answerable to one and only one supervisor, this concept adopts the same but with an addition of an extra supervisor on crucial decision-making activities of the supervisors. Through this form, the level of the decisions made would high and unbiased with regard to relevance and convenience of the problems arose by the employees. Because managers may encounter problems during decision-making, the need for an additional supervisor improves the organization level of decision-making through power sharing and resolving of problems by confrontations. This form of structure utilizes all forms of direction in the organization to disseminate critical problems and solutions to relevant individuals. Despite the fact that this form of structure is not streamline to the needs of a chain of command structure, it offers the need of improvement of service delivery and enhancement of workers morale.

In large organization where there exist many departments with varied roles or contribution to the organization, such organization adopts the divisional structure. In this organization structure the organization, subdivide the organization to major departments where each department undertakes their production line without the connection of the employees. In the top of each department leadership, there exists linkage of the departments where the group could address the organizational problems. The departments are involved in specialization of their line of business where any problem indentified is presented to their supervisors who handle the problem as expected. In this form of structure, the fact that specialization is emphasized means that individuals involved in the production gets the desired skills and knowledge, which contribute to the overall improvement of the organization. Similarly, the need for chain of command in such organization has to be clearly spelt out within each department since the roles played by the various departments are unique and distinctive. As a result, this form of leadership enhances the productivity levels of the employees and reduces the conflict of interest among the departments. For the crucial problems regarding the strategic decisions, the various heads of the department make their contributions from which changes could be traverse across the whole organization. Considering the influence of this organization structure, it adopts the principle of chain of command but on application on large scales, which was not common in the classical times. Nevertheless, this structure accepts the need for change of management within the organization and minimizes the conflicts that might exist between the departments. Thus, it is regarded as the best approach for large and multi-purpose organizations (Zedeck, 2011).

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The changes noted due to passage of time indicates that this form of organizational structure would be integrated with other forms structures. As realized from the dynamism prevalent in the business sector, the organizations will have to accept the changes and incorporate the full extent of chain of command when necessary. Considering the advantages and disadvantages of the chain of command, it is essential to adopt it if it will generate benefits while adequate measures incorporated where it would yield futile results. In the future periods, the above mention features like flatter hierarchy or matrix would be essential if the retention of chain of command is necessary within the organization. This fact is enhanced by the need to clearly outline the organization structure layout. Additionally, organizations with such form of organization have higher chances of enhancing could employee relationship if there exist collaboration amongst them, which serve in the interest of the organization. Thus, in the future this form of organization structure would be retained only with some few adjustments concerning organization needs.

Finally, the chain of command poses the need of defining how organization could adopt the best organizational structure, which defines the communication in an acceptable manner to all employees. As communication design within the organization is vital, proper measures must be incorporated to ensure that it is done as expected and in the interest of the organization. Nevertheless, the organization adoption of chain of command is vital in the fight of establishing itself in the market.

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