Staff structure or linear-staff organizational structure is one of the attempts to solve the problem of linear structure constraints. Manager having too much various tasks is not able to effectively manage its employees.
Therefore, staff units has been introduced, which was supposed to perform some of manager tasks. E.g. experts could calculate payroll, coordinate human resources, perform work and resource allocation, etc. The whole decision power is retained by the manager, but he gets suggestions of some of the decisions from expert and then he has only confirm suggestions made by experts to make decision (fig. 1).
Role of staff within structure
General management may decide, however, that a better solution would be to create a general staff of experts helping head manager (CEO), and not individual expert positions for each lower level manager. Where appropriate managers are granted the right to use of expert knowledge of general staff of experts. The management staff changes in the general staff.
Need for coordination of expert work leads to creation of formal staff structure parallel to the existing linear structure.
Advantages of staff structure
Staff structure allows to preserve the principle of one-man management (every worker has only one superior), but at the same time provides greater flexibility in changing operating conditions. It also introduces an element of encouraging cooperation between all members of the organization. Expanded linear-staff structures in bigger organizations may experience conflicts between the managers and experts concerning they role in decision making process. The threat of conflicts is greater when there is a hierarchy of various staffs in organization. Managers must have at least such a range of knowledge, which would allow them to pass without distortion command suggested by staff of experts. Experts could not command any of employees directly.
Linear-staff structures usually evolve in the direction of divisional or departmental structures.
- Galbraith, J. R. (1974). Organization design: An information processing view. Interfaces, 4(3), 28-36.
- Mintzberg, H. (1980). Structure in 5's: A Synthesis of the Research on Organization Design. Management science, 26(3), 322-341.