Linear organization

A linear organization is one in which authority flows from top to bottom, and it does so in a linear, unambiguous and rigid way.

Linear organization

This type of organization has its origin in the army.

Furthermore, in the Middle Ages, the church also followed this system. Therefore, each one knows who his superior is and what the chain of command is.

In this way, there is no room for improvisations or interpretations. Well, it is already defined previously.

Why a linear organization?

A linear organization is based on authority and rigidity.

Therefore, it is not recommended in companies that require clear flexibility. Thus, those that are very small could benefit from this type of organization, where everyone knows their site.

On the other hand, there are activities that require clear authority, while requiring that the levels are well defined.

In fact, the army as an organization is one of them, and it is, as we have already mentioned, the origin of the linear organization.

Differences between linear and functional organization

These two forms of organization are two sides of the same coin. While it is true that their objective is the same, to organize, the path they choose is very different.

  • A functional organization focuses on the functions of each position. Therefore, the important thing here is what you do. In linear organization, the center is the hierarchy. The important thing is who’s boss.
  • In the functional, the main advantage is, above all, flexibility, which allows it to adapt to changes. The downside is that there is some confusion in responsibilities. In the linear, the main advantage is knowing who makes the decisions, the disadvantage may be the rigidity.
  • Finally, we have the graphical representation. In the functional it would be the organization chart of the same name and in the linear, the hierarchical one.

Example of linear organization

To finish, let’s look at some examples of this form of organization.

  • Those mentioned above, the army or the church of the Middle Ages. In these cases, the authority is clear and the hierarchical levels are perfectly established.
  • A small company consisting of a general and two secondary management. In it there would be three levels. Employees would know that they answer to their manager first, and the manager to the general.
  • Organizations based on pyramid fraud or «ponzi». Its hierarchy is clear, like a pyramid. Each level answers to the superior. This form of linear organization is, of course, illegal.