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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 12

Chapter Twelve - Staff Interaction

"Staff Interaction" traces the origins of the support Staff function and examines the relationship between the Staff and Line functions; as well as offering Leaders greater insight on effectively supervising the Staff functions and increasing their Staff's effectiveness by reducing the inter-departmental rivalry or ill-will that commonly exists between the Staff support and Line functions.

 


12.1 Staff and Line Functions Defined.  "Generally, a line function is one which is involved in or contributes directly to the main business activity of a firm….  [While] Staff functions are those functions which help or assist line functions accomplish the primary objectives of the enterprise.  They are activities which are indirectly related to the major objectives of the firm" (Carvell, HRB p178).  Additionally, Line functions are those activities that give definition to the organization structure and which ensure that the product or service is produced and reaches the customer at a profit.  Whereas, Staff functions are subsequently added to assist Line managers in accomplishing their goals.  Thus as the number or depth of the Leader's responsibilities expand to the point of making unrealistic demands on his or her time or expertise so that he or she is no longer able to effectively administer all the required functions in his or her supervisory domain, Staff positions are created to help facilitate his or her endeavors.  For while a Leader may be quite capable of supervising six retail locations, providing the necessary training, marketing, and administrative support, etc., he or she will typically need the assistance of a training manager, marketing director, controller, property administrator, real estate manager, construction supervisor, and a director of operations and their various assistants to successfully supervise 250 such units.  However, regardless of the quality or degree of support they receive "line management has the full and final responsibility for directing the activities of the people who comprise the organization, because line management is directly responsible to the founders or owners for achieving results through those people.  Consequently, line management must retain the full authority to carry out the function[s] for which it is held responsible.  This authority cannot be successfully delegated except within the line management organization [structure].  The staff role, on the other hand, is one of counsel, service, and advice.  The staff expert should have no authority over any part of the line organization, nor should he [she] take any action that will interfere with line management's performance of its role" (McGregor, LM p146).  Therefore, Staff members typically have far fewer Subordinates of their own and are ordinarily concerned with activities of a much more limited scope and responsibility than their Line Leader counterparts at comparable hierarchical levels.  Whereas a Line Leader's responsibilities of are traditionally broader in scope; having a similar range of authority as his or her immediate superior on a downscaled version of the larger hierarchal structure that is usually organized and operated in a similar manner as the next higher echelon.  Thus as a result of this wider range of supervisory responsibility, Line positions are more frequently the incubators of future presidential candidates than Staff positions.

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook