Line and Staff organisation
A Line function is one that directly advances an organisation in its core work. This always includes production, sales and marketing. In an organisational set-up, those who possess line authority are the people directly involved in the basic activities of the enterprise. The line managers are responsible for achieving the results, so they are having authority to decide an implement decisions.
The Staff officials are experts and having specialised knowledge in their respective field, so they will guide and advice line managers and they do not have any authority for decision making. The Line managers can accept or reject the suggestions given by the Staff managers.
Line and staff functions frequently overlap. Most staff executives may also simultaneously be line executives. For example, when the chief accounts officer gives expert advice to the chief line officer in respect of tax and accounting matters, he acts as a staff officer. When he supervises and controls the work of subordinates in his own department, he performs the functions of a line executive. When he directs the executives at different levels to follow certain specific accounting procedures in their respective departments, he assumes the role of a functional executive.
For eg: In the armed forces, the roles of line and staff agencies are clearly demarcated. The line part of the organisation does the front line fighting while the staff plays the supporting role (in the supply of information, logistics and so on). However, the staff managers are also trained to handle the front line roles in case of an emergency in the front-line battle front.
Expert advice: Line executives and through them the enterprise as a whole, benefit a great deal from the expert advice and guidance provided by the staff officers.
Relief to line executives: Staff executives carry on detailed analysis of each important managerial activity. Hence line executives do not have to
undertake specialized investigation of each problem - situation, for which they may not always be competent.
Training of young staff executives: A line and staff organisation offers an opportunity to young staff executives to acquire expertise in their respective fields of activity.
Confusion: It may not always be possible to determine the pattern of authority relationships between line and staff executives, which might create confusion.
Expertise not aided by authority: Staff executives may be experts in their fields of activity but they only have an advisory role. They lack authority to implement their advice.
Centralisation: In a line and staff organisation, line executives alone have the power to make and execute decisions. Thus it tends towards centralization of authority in a few hands.