Thursday, 22 December 2011

06: Line/Staff Authority, Empowerment, and Decentralization

Authority and Power
Power, a much broader concept than authority, is the ability of individuals or groups to induce or influence the beliefs or actions of other person or group. Authority in an organization is the right in the person (and through it, the right of the person occupying the position) to exercise discretion in making decisions affecting others. Although there are many different bases of power, the power of primary concern in this book is legitimate power e.g. a traffic officer who gives a traffic ticket. Power may come from expertness of a person or a group e.g. power of knowledge. Physicians, lawyer may have considerable influence on others because they are respected for their special knowledge. Power may further exist as referent power, that is, influence that people or groups may exercise because people believe in them and their ideas e.g. politician, film stars or military hero. Inreward power, people exercise considerable influence through their ability to expedite or delay in required action. Coercive power is still another type. Although closely related to reward power and normally arising from legitimate power, it is the power to punish, whether by firing a subordinate or withholding a merit increase. While organization authority is the power to exercise discretion in decision making, it almost invariably arises from the power of position, or legitimate power.


Empowerment means that employees, managers, or teams at all levels in the organization have the power to make decision without asking their superiors for permission. The notion underlying empowerment is that those closest to the task are best able to make the decision – provided they have the required competencies. Conceptually,
1.Power should be equal to responsibility (P=R)
2.If power is greater than responsibility (P>R), then this could result in an autocratic behavior of the superior who is not held accountable for his or her actions.
3.If responsibility is greater than the power (R>P), then this could result in frustration of subordinates because they do not have the necessary power to carry out the task for which they are responsible.
Some of the reasons for the interest in empowerment are global competitiveness, the need to respond fast to the demands and expectations of customer. Empowerment of subordinates means that superiors have to share their authority and power with their subordinate. Thus, an autocratic leadership style, when used as the only why to manage, is often inappropriate for twenty-first-century organization. Most employees want to be involved and want to participate in decisions, which, in turn, create a sense of belonging, achievement, and self-esteem.
Effective management requires that empowerment is sincere, is based on mutual trust, provides employees with relevant information to carry out their task, and is given to competent people.

Line/Staff Concepts and Functional Authority

Line authority gives a superior a line of authority over a subordinate. The Scalar Principle in organization is: The cleaner the line of authority from the ultimate management position in an enterprise to every subordinate position, the clearer will be the responsibility for decision making and the more effective will be he organization communication. It therefore becomes apparent from the scalar principle that Line Authority is that relationship in which superior exercises direct supervision over a subordinate – an authority relationship in direct line or steps. The nature of the Staff Relationship is advisory. The function of people in a pure staff capacity is to investigate, research, and give advice to line manager. Functional Authority is the right that is delegated to an individual or department to control specified process, practices, policies or other matters relating to activities undertaken by person in other departments.

Decentralization of Authority
The Nature of Decentralization

Decentralization is the tendency to disperse decision making authority in an organized structure. It is fundamental aspect of delegation; to the extent that authority is not delegated, it is centralized.
Different Kinds of Centralization1. Centralization of Performance pertains to geographic concentration; it characterizes, for example, a company operating in a single location.
2. Departmental Centralization refers to concentration of specialized activities generally in one department. For example, maintenance for a whole plant may be carried out by single department.
3. Centralization as an aspect of management is the tendency to restrict delegation of decision making. A high degree of authority is held at or near the top by managers in the organizational hierarchy.

Decentralization as a Philosophy and Policy

Decentralization implies more than delegation; it reflects a philosophy of organization and management. It requires. It requires a careful selection of which decisions to push down into the organization structure and which to hold near he top.

Delegation of Authority
Authority is delegated when a superior gives a subordinate discretion to make decisions. The process of delegation involves determining the results expected from a position, assigning tasks to the position, delegating authority for accomplishing these tasks and holding the person in that position responsible for the accomplishment of the task.

The art of DelegationMost failures in effective delegation occur not because mangers do not understand the nature and principles of delegation but because they are unable or unwilling to apply them. Delegation is in a way an elementary act of managing.

Personal Attitudes toward Delegation
1. Receptiveness: An underlying attribute of managers who will delegate authority is a willingness to give other people’s idea a chance.
2. Willingness to let go: if the size or complexity of the organization forces delegation of authority, manager should realize that there is a “law of comparative managerial advantage” (same as law of comparative economic advantage, which states that, a country’s wealth will be enhanced if it exports what it produces most efficiently and imports what it produces least efficiently.
3. Willingness to let others make mistakes: Continual checking on the subordinate to ensure that no mistakes are ever made will make true delegation impossible. Since everyone makes mistakes, a subordinate must be allowed to make some, and their cost must be considered an investment in personal development. Serious or repeated mistakes can be largely avoided without nullifying delegation.
4. Willingness to trust subordinates: Superiors have no alternative to trusting their subordinates, for delegation implies a trustful attitude between them. This trust is sometimes hard to come by.
5. Willingness to establish and use broad controls: More often than not, reluctance to delegate and to trust subordinates comes from the superior’s inadequate planning and understandable fear of loss of control.

Overcoming Weak DelegationFollowing practical guides will facilitate a successful delegation:
1. Define assignments and delegate authority in the light of result expected.
2. Select the person in the light of the job to be done.
3. Maintain open lines of communication.
4. Establish proper controls.
5. Reward effective delegation and successful assumption of authority.

Recentralization of Authority and Balance as the key to decentralization
Recentralization is normally not a complete reversal of decentralization, for authority delegations are not wholly withdrawn managers who made them.

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