Read this section about the levels of management, functional organizational structures, the span of control, and how organizational charts are created.

The Organization Chart

Once an organization has set its structure, it can represent that structure in an organization chart: a diagram delineating the interrelationships of positions within the organization. Having decided that Notes-4-You will adopt a functional structure, you might create the organization chart shown in Figure 6.5 "Organization Chart for Notes-4-You".

Figure 6.5 Organization Chart for Notes-4-You

Begin by putting yourself at the top of the chart, as the company's president. Then fill in the level directly below your name with the names and positions of the people who work directly for you – your accounting, marketing, operations, and human resources managers. The next level identifies the people who work for these managers. Because you've started out small, neither your accounting manager nor your human resources manager will be currently managing anyone directly. Your marketing manager, however, will oversee one person in advertising and a sales supervisor (who, in turn, oversees the sales staff). Your operations manager will oversee two individuals – one to supervise notetakers and one to supervise the people responsible for making copies.

Reporting Relationships

With these relationships in mind, you can now draw lines to denote reporting relationships, or patterns of formal communication. Because four managers report to you, you'll be connected to four positions; that is, you'll have four direct "reports". Your marketing and operations managers will each be connected to two positions and their supervisors to one position each. The organization chart shows that if a member of the sales staff has a problem, he or she will report it to the sales supervisor. If the sales supervisor believes that the problem should be addressed at a higher level, then he or she will report it to the marketing manager.

Theoretically, you will communicate only with your four direct reports, but this isn't the way things normally work. Behind every formal communication network there lies a network of informal communications – unofficial relationships among members of an organization. You might find that over time, you receive communications directly from members of the sales staff; in fact, you might encourage this line of communication.

Now let's look at the chart of an organization that relies on a divisional structure based on goods or services produced – say, a theme park. The top layers of this company's organization chart might look like the one in Figure 6.6 "Organization Charts for Divisional Structures"(a). We see that the president has two direct reports – a vice president in charge of rides and a vice president in charge of concessions. What about a bank that's structured according to its customer base? The bank's organization chart would begin like the one in Figure 6.6 "Organization Charts for Divisional Structures"(b). Once again, the company's top manager has two direct reports, in this case a VP of retail-customer accounts and a VP of commercial-customer accounts.

Figure 6.6 Organization Charts for Divisional Structures

Over time, companies revise their organizational structures to accommodate growth and changes in the external environment. It's not uncommon, for example, for a firm to adopt a functional structure in its early years. Then, as it becomes bigger and more complex, it might move to a divisional structure – perhaps to accommodate new products or to become more responsive to certain customers or geographical areas. Some companies might ultimately rely on a combination of functional and divisional structures. This could be a good approach for a credit card company that issues cards in both the United States and Europe. A skeleton of this firm's organization chart might look like the one in Figure 6.7 "Organization Chart: Combination Divisional and Functional Structures".

Figure 6.7 Organization Chart: Combination Divisional and Functional Structures

Two simplified org charts. One: divisional structure by product and two divisional structure by customer base

Lines of Authority

You can learn a lot about a firm's reporting and authority relationships by looking at its organization chart. To whom does a particular person report? Does each person report to one or more supervisors? How many people does a manager supervise? How many layers are there, for example, between the top managerial position and the lowest managerial level?

Chain of Command

The vertical connecting lines in the organization chart show the firm's chain of command: the authority relationships among people working at different levels of the organization. That is to say, they show who reports to whom. When you're examining an organization chart, you'll probably want to know whether each person reports to one or more supervisors: to what extent, in other words, is there unity of command? To understand why unity of command is an important organizational feature, think about it from a personal standpoint. Would you want to report to more than one boss? What happens if you get conflicting directions? Whose directions would you follow?

There are, however, conditions under which an organization and its employees can benefit by violating the unity-of-command principle. Under a matrix structure, for example, employees from various functional areas (product design, manufacturing, finance, marketing, human resources, etc.) form teams to combine their skills in working on a specific project or product. This matrix organization chart might look like the one in the following figure.

Figure 6.8 Organization Chart: Matrix Structure

Nike sometimes uses this type of arrangement. To design new products, the company may create product teams made up of designers, marketers, and other specialists with expertise in particular sports categories – say, running shoes or basketball shoes. Each team member would be evaluated by both the team manager and the head of his or her functional department.

Span of Control

Another thing to notice about a firm's chain of command is the number of layers between the top managerial position and the lowest managerial level. As a rule, new organizations (such as Notes-4-You) have only a few layers of management – an organizational structure that's often called flat. Let's say, for instance, that a member of the Notes-4-You sales staff wanted to express concern about slow sales among a certain group of students. That person's message would have to filter upward through only two management layers – the sales supervisor and the marketing manager – before reaching the president.

As a company grows, however, it tends to add more layers between the top and the bottom; that is, it gets taller. Added layers of management can slow down communication and decision making, causing the organization to become less efficient and productive. That's one reason why many of today's organizations are restructuring to become flatter.

There are trade-offs between the advantages and disadvantages of flat and tall organizations. Companies determine which trade-offs to make according to a principle called span of control, which measures the number of people reporting to a particular manager. If, for example, you remove layers of management to make your organization flatter, you end up increasing the number of positions reporting to a particular supervisor. If you refer back to the organization chart in Figure 6.5 "Organization Chart for Notes-4-You", you'll recall that, under your present structure, four managers report to you as the president of Notes-4-You: the heads of accounting, marketing, operations, and human resources. In turn, two of these managers have positions reporting to them: the advertising manager and sales supervisor report to the marketing manager, while the notetaker's supervisor and the copier's supervisor report to the operations manager. Let's say that you remove a layer of management by getting rid of the marketing and operations managers. Your organization would be flatter, but what would happen to your workload? As president, you'd now have six direct reports rather than four: accounting manager, advertising manager, sales manager, notetaker supervisor, copier supervisor, and human resources manager.

What's better – a narrow span of control (with few direct reports) or a wide span of control (with many direct reports)? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including frequency and type of interaction, proximity of subordinates, competence of both supervisor and subordinates, and the nature of the work being supervised. For example, you'd expect a much wider span of control at a nonprofit call center than in a hospital emergency room.

Delegating Authority

Given the tendency toward flatter organizations and wider spans of control, how do managers handle increased workloads? They must learn how to handle delegation – the process of entrusting work to subordinates. Unfortunately, many managers are reluctant to delegate. As a result, they not only overburden themselves with tasks that could be handled by others, but they also deny subordinates the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

Responsibility and Authority

As owner of Notes-4-You, you'll probably want to control every aspect of your business, especially during the start-up stage. But as the organization grows, you'll have to assign responsibility for performing certain tasks to other people. You'll also have to accept the fact that responsibility alone – the duty to perform a task – won't be enough to get the job done. You'll need to grant subordinates the authority they require to complete a task – that is, the power to make the necessary decisions. (And they'll also need sufficient resources.) Ultimately, you'll also hold your subordinates accountable for their performance.

Centralization and Decentralization

If and when your company expands (say, by offering note-taking services at other schools), you'll have to decide whether most decisions should still be made by individuals at the top or delegated to lower-level employees. The first option, in which most decision making is concentrated at the top, is called centralization. The second option, which spreads decision making throughout the organization, is called decentralization.

Let's say that you favor decentralizing Notes-4-You some four or five years down the road, when the company has expanded. Naturally, there are some decisions – such as strategic planning – that you won't delegate to lower-level employees, but you could certainly delegate the management of copy-center operations. In fact, putting someone in charge of this function would probably improve customer satisfaction, because copy-center customers would be dealing directly with the manager. It would also give the manager valuable decision-making experience, and while he or she is busy making daily decisions about the copy center, you'll have more time to work on higher-level tasks. The more you think about the possibility of decentralizing your company, the more you like the idea. First, though, you have to see it through its difficult start-up years.