Need for readjustment and change

In addition to pressing reasons for reorganization, there is a certain need for moderate and continuing readjustment merely to keep the structure from becoming stagnant. “Empire building� (i.e. building up a large organization so that; the manager appears to be more important) is not so attractive when all those involved know that their positions are subject to change. As a company president told his subordinates: “Don’t bother to build any empires, because I can assure you that you won’t be in the same position three years from now�. Some managers, realizing that an organization structure must be a living thing, make structural changes merely to accustom subordinates to changes.

Much can be said for developing a tradition of change. People who are used to change tend to accept it without the frustration and demoralization that result when need for reorganization is allowed to reach the stage at which change must be revolutionary. On the other hand, a company continually undertaking major reorganization may damage morale, and people may spend much of their time wondering what will happen to them because of organizational changes.

The line staff problem is not only one of the most difficult that organizations but also the source of an extraordinarily large amount of inefficiency. Solving this problem requires great managerial skill, careful attention to principles, and patient teaching of personnel.

Understanding authority relationships

Managers must understand the nature of authority relationships if they want to solve the problems of line and staff. As long as managers regard line and staff as groups of people or groupings of activities (e.g. service departments), confusion will result. Line and staff are authority relationships and many jobs have elements of both. The line relationship involves making decisions and acting on them. The staff relationship, on the other hand, implies the right to assist and counsel. In short, the line may “tell,� but the staff must “sell� (its recommendations).

Making line listen to staff

If staff counsel and advice are justifiable at all, it is because of the need for assistance either from experts or from those freed from more pressing duties to give such assistance. Obviously, if staff help is not used, it would make sense to abolish it. Line managers should realize that competent staff assistants offer suggestions to aid and not to undermine or criticize. Although line staff friction may stem from ineptness or overzealousness on the part of staff people, trouble also arises when line executives too carefully guard their authority and resent the very assistance they need.