Power and Authority
Organizational structure is a means of facilitating the achievement of organizational
objectives. Such structures are not static, but dynamic. They reorganize in response to changing conditions that occur in
the environment, new technology, or organizational growth. Organization structures are dependent upon the employees whose
activities they guide. Supervisors rely upon power and authority to ensure that employees get things done.
The organizational structure provides the framework for the formal distribution of authority.
Formalization is the degree to which tasks are standardized and rules and regulations govern employee behavior. It
influences the amount of discretion an employee has over his or her job. In an organization with high degrees of formalization,
job descriptions and policies provide clear direction. Where formalization is low, employees have a great deal of freedom
in deciding how thy conduct their work. Within the same organization, different departments may have different degrees of
formalization. For example, in a hospital, doctors have freedom in selecting treatments, drugs, and methods for treating patients.
However, the hospital physical plant staff has a strict schedule for cleaning buildings, mowing lawns, and maintaining the
Authority is the legitimate power
of a supervisor to direct subordinates to take action within the scope of the supervisor's position. Formal authority in the
organization can be traced all the way back to the U.S. constitutional right to own property. The owner of the organization
has the authority to make decisions. For example, entrepreneurial firms have an informal arrangement of employees and centralization
of decision-making authority, the owner.
Forms of Authority
Three forms of authority are line authority, staff authority, and team authority.
Line authority is direct supervisory
authority from superior to subordinate. Authority flows in a direct chain of command from the top of the company to the bottom.
Chain of command is an unbroken line of reporting relationships that extends through the entire organization that defines
the formal decision-making structure. It helps employees know to whom they are accountable, and whom to go to with a problem.
Line departments are directly linked to the production and sales of specific products. Supervisors -- in line departments,
such as marketing and production -- give direct orders, evaluate performance, and reward or punish those employees who work
for them. Unity of command within the chain states that each person in an organization should take orders from and
reports to only one person. This helps prevent conflicting demands being placed on employees by more than one boss. However,
the trend toward employee empowerment, fueled by advances in technology and changes in design from downsizing and reengineering
have tempered the importance of being accountable to only one superior. Span of control refers to the number of employees
that should be placed under the direction of one manager. Spans within effective organizations vary greatly. The actual number
depends on the amount of complexity and the level of specialization. In general, a wide span of control is possible with better-trained,
more experienced, and committed employees.