Line Organization | Characteristics | Types | Advantages | Disadvantages

What is a Line Organization?

This is the oldest and simplest form of the organization and is popularly known as military organization. The term “Line” has been borrowed from the military administration. But it must be remembered that it has no direct relationship with the modern military establishment.

Line Organization - Characteristics, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages
Image: Line Organization – Characteristics, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

Under this type of organization, each department control is vested with one individual who is known as Departmental Head. He/ she is fully responsible for running the department. All the departmental heads are responsible to their immediate superior i.e. General Manager.

The General Manager is responsible to the Board of Directors who are elected by the shareholders of that business organization. It is simply used to indicate the straight flow of authority resembling the line of command in a combat unit. This system of organization is also known as “Scalar“, “Traditional” or “hierarchical” form of organization.

Characteristics of Line Organization

Characteristics of line organization are listed below.

1. Line organization has direct vertical relationship.

2. The departmental head has full authority to manage and control of that department.

3. The operation of line organization is very simple.

4. The direct relationship is prevailing between the sub-ordinate and immediate superior.

5. Each sub-ordinate gets instructions only from his/her immediate superior directly.

6. Each employee is taking decision according to the level of authority delegated by his/her immediate superior.

Types of Line Organization

Line organization can be further classified into two kinds:

  1. Departmental line organization, and
  2. Pure line organization

The chart given can illustrate the Departmental line organization.

Departmental line organization chart
Image: Departmental line organization chart. Source:

In this model chart, the enterprise has three departments or shops namely, Foundry shop, Machine shop and Assembling shop. A foreman heads each department. Authority and instructions pass on from the General Manager to the Plant Superintendent and from the Plant Superintendent to the Foreman and from the Foreman to the workers. Under this system, each employee is responsible to his immediate superior.

Pure Line Organization

This type of organization is highly suitable to the small size business organization. All the employees are performing the same type of work at one level. A group of employees is controlled by one individual. Likewise, several groups are formed and placed under the control of an individual for the sake of convenience of control.

Departmental Line Organization

Under this type of line organization, the whole business organization is divided into several departments and each department is under the control of one individual who is known as Departmental Manager. The departmental manager is responsible or answerable to his immediate superior i.e. General Manager. Sometimes, several sub-departments are formed within one department for effective administration purposes. For example, Sales Department.

The sales department can be further sub-divided into Counter Sales, Branch Sales, On Line Sales and Export. Each sub-department is look after by one supervisor and adequate number of workers are working under them. The workers get instructions from the supervisor and the supervisor gets advice from the departmental head. Hence, there is no contact between Sales Manager and the workers.

Advantages of Line Organization

The line organization has the following advantages:

1. Simplicity: This system is very simple and can operate very easily. It explains the tasks of every worker in an organization. Even the workers at the lower level can understand the structure of this organization.

2. Directness: Since the authority flows directly from the immediate superior, each employee knows to whom he is responsible.

3. Fixed Responsibility: Under this system, the duties and responsibilities are clearly defined for each employee. Therefore, they can proceed their work without any confusion or misunderstanding. Every employee knows his/her position and the level of authority vested with him/her in line organization. Moreover, an employee knows to whom he/she is responsible and who are responsible to him/her. In this way, responsibility is easily fixed. Hence, nobody is escaped from the responsibility.

4. Unity of Command: Since the workers are responsible only to one superior, unity of command is made possible.

5. Flexibility: This system is flexible in the sense that it is subject to quick adjustments to suit the changing conditions. Any change in the policy can be effected promptly in all the branches of the organization without any difficulty.

6. Storage Discipline: The vertical arrangement of authority and the singleness of responsibility ensures excellent discipline.

7. Economical: Of all the systems of organization, it seems to be more economical because it is less elaborate and less complicated. Minimum number of employees are required to adopt line organization. Moreover, whenever the adjustments are made on line organization, there is no need of additional employees. Hence, less expenses is incurred for adopting line organization.

8. Direct Communication: As this system enables direct contact between the superior and his subordinates, direct communication is made possible. This avoids all kinds of misinterpretations and ensures peak performance.

9. Coordination: Since each department is controlled by one man, complete coordination throughout the department is assured.

10. Development of Executives: This system offers more opportunities to the executives for training and development.

11. Quick Decision: Quick decisions are taken by the employees because of unification of authority and responsibility.

Disadvantages of Line Organization:

This line system is not without disadvantages. The following are the main drawbacks of this system:

1. Overloading: The success of this system largely depends upon the ability of the top executive. Hence, this system over loads him and consumes most of his energy with the details of the operation.

2. Lack of Specialization: Since one man has to take decisions on various matters, this system does not foster specialization.

3. Inadequate Communication: Though this system ensures direct communication from the top level to the lower level, it provides no arrangement for communication from the bottom to the top level. This may lead to wrong adjustments or wrong decision-making on the part of the executives.

4. Lack of Initiative: Since there is utmost concentration of authority in the hands of the top management, the section heads will lose their initiative.

5. Instability: As the success of the system mainly depends upon the ability of one or two persons, the whole organization shall upset and collapse if they leave the enterprise. Hence, this is unstable.

6. Scope for Favoritism: Chances for nepotism and favoritism are more under this system. Since one man controls the whole show, the subordinates have to dance according to his tune.

7. Red Tapism and Bureaucracy: Concentration of authority in the hands of a single man shall result in red tapism at all levels.

Scope of Line Organization

Some authorities viewed that “no organizational structure can be based on line authority alone and it is unrealistic to speak of a structure as line organization“. However, this system can be suitably followed:

  1. Where the scale of business is comparatively small.
  2. Where the number of subordinates and operatives is less.
  3. Where the process of production is continuous or special.
  4. Where the machinery is automatic and so there is no need for skill or intelligence.
  5. Where the labor and management problems are not difficult to solve.