Strategic Management: Formulation and Implementation

Line And Staff Positions

In examining organizational structure, we must be careful to distinguish between line and staff.

A line position is a position that has authority and responsibility for achieving the major goals of the organization.

A staff position is a position whose primary purpose is providing specialized expertise and assistance to line positions. Staff can also be defined by the type of people: technical or support. Technical staff are specialists, such as engineers and economists. Support staff those who provide assistance in helping them anager, and include secretaries, data processors, and clerks. The usefulness of the distinction between line and staff departments becomes more clear when one considers the differences between line authority and staff authority.

Line authority is authority that follows the chain of command established by the formal hierarchy (e.g., the line departments receive their authority through the chain of command connected to the president).

Functional authority is authority over others in the organization in matters related directly to their respective functions (e.g., the staff departments have functional authority only in their area of staff expertise).