03 May, 2012
The management tools have been consistently remained changing since the advent of industrial revolution. Human has been exploring different techniques and models to manage its assets and operation effectively. However, the principles and theories formulated during the first quarter of 20th century are still being used as the base of each new management model. This paper mainly highlights the principle of chain of command which was first presented by Henri Fayol in 1916. The paper deals with the significance of chain of command, the historical perspective described by different writers, and its effectiveness in organizations. An intentional attempt has been made to generalize the concept of chain of command in all fields of life. Although the term is mostly used in military perspective, however, the paper is not found stuck to military organizations only. The application of chain of command and its effectiveness has been discussed in context of both military and civil organizations. In the concluding remarks, the concept of chain of command has been analyzed critically along with few recommendations.
Chain of Command
In a military perspective, the chain of command is a specific communication and interactive procedure, in the line of authority plus responsibility in which orders are conveyed in a military unit and other concerning different units. Generally orders are disseminated out by a higher hierarchy i.e. a commissioned officer to the lower-ranked personnel who after receiving the orders execute the same to further lower personnel. Thus the orders are carried out to all those who are supposed to be executed. Generally, in military orders are given to instant subordinates in the chain of command while lower ranked personnel get the orders only from those who are their immediate seniors. No service member is allowed to appeal for any relief to a commander above his immediate officer and the failure is dealt with disciplinary action. Although, military officers are authorized to give orders to any of their under command subordinates, however, they are expected to communicate their orders only to their immediate juniors. In any organization, military, civil, or private, chain of command is actually an official streak of authority, control, and responsibility. The chain of command is well described through a sorted out organizational chart which identifies the superior authorities and their subordinates as well as the possible ways of communications and relationships between them. The classical theory of organization highlights the importance of human relations, organizational effectiveness, and overall management. These aspects construct an organizational structure which allows one to ascertain the lines of authority and command and ensures lucid task of his responsibilities (Alajloni et al, 2010). The principle of unity of command is maintained by following the proper chain of command along with apparent interaction with specific authority. According to Fayol (1916), this principle means that each lower ranked subordinate must receive orders from one and only one person. This minimizes any kind of confusions, doubts, and conflicts as various bosses lead to divide the responsibilities. In military perspective, the rule of unity of command is very significant because violation of this rule leads to jeopardize of overall discipline and may also result in instability of the whole unit. In his historical book ‘General and Industrial Management’, Fayol also stated the scalar chain principle. This principle describes that authority and responsibility flow, one level at a time, in a vertical line from the highest level in an organization to its lowest level and thus establishes an organization's hierarchy. For Duncan (1979), the disregard of chain of command without proper disposal is a management error; however,...