What Is Hierarchical Structure?

hierarchical structure
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A hierarchy is one of the most prevalent frameworks used by corporations to organize their power levels.  Understanding this type of organisation can assist a corporation in determining whether creating a hierarchy would aid it in achieving its objectives. In this article, we describe a hierarchical structure in business and analyze the benefits and drawbacks of using it to delegate authority inside an organisation.

What Is Hierarchical Organisational Structure?

A hierarchical structure in an organisation resembles a pyramid, with authority cascading down from a single person at the top to many levels of administration and oversight. Hierarchical structure in an organisation is more common in government organizations and large corporations with huge numbers of personnel and vast operations. This is due to the hierarchical structure’s ability to accommodate groups of this size while remaining functional with clear lines of authority.

How Does a Hierarchical Organisational Structure Work?

Larger firms and businesses typically have a hierarchical structure. It is based on different degrees of power and a chain of command that connects multiple management levels inside the organisation. The decision-making process is often formal and top-down. This results in a towering organisational structure with clear lines of responsibility and authority at each level of management. The number of levels and the height of the hierarchical structure increase as the organisation grows.

The number of managers at each level frequently gives the organisation the appearance of a pyramid. As you proceed down, the organisation becomes more complex, with one chief executive at the top, followed by senior management, middle managers, and lastly, workers. Employee responsibilities within the organisation are clearly defined, as is the nature of their relationships with other employees.

What Are the Key Elements of a Hierarchical Structure?

The success of a hierarchical structure in a business is defined by five key aspects. These elements are as follows:

#1. Span Of Control

Hierarchical structures in business assign employees to managers, with a span of control determining the number of employees under one manager. Managers with a limited span of authority can closely monitor employees, allowing for more regular communication. However, this can stifle creativity. Managers with a broader span of control may have more self-sufficient employees but face a greater workload.

Several factors can alter the span of control, including:

  • The organization’s Size and Nature

Larger organizations require more hands on deck. The greater the number of personnel to manage, the greater the range of control.

  • The Nature Of The Work or Employee Routines 

Complex employee responsibilities necessitate more supervision as their scope of control is reduced in organizations with more complex jobs, enabling managers to closely monitor employees for improved output quality.

  • Manager and Employee Skill Level

Managers with superior communication skills are better equipped to manage large groups of employees, allowing for a greater span of control and closer attention to each employee.

#2. Departmentalization

Create detailed department maps outlining roles, responsibilities, and procedures. List job openings, automation requirements, and necessary technology. Determine departmental organisation based on function, product, location, process, or customer type. Consider automation and technology requirements for effective communication.

#3. Chain Of Control

The chain of control in an organisation is a hierarchical structure, with the CEO and board of directors at the top, managers and supervisors at the centre, and low-level management personnel at the bottom. CEOs manage performance, managers set goals, and supervisors oversee personnel daily to achieve objectives.

#4. Specialisation in the Workplace

Work specialisation in organisations allows employees to specialise in specific tasks, enhancing productivity and skill development. For example, a marketing department can have different departments, such as budgeting, market research, and SEO. This division allows employees to perform tasks faster and more accurately, making them less likely to be replaced. However, this approach can also lead to employees becoming obsolete, especially in the face of technological advancements.

#5. Decentralisation and Centralization Control

Centralised organisational models, such as the hierarchical structure, concentrate power in the hands of a single figurehead—the CEO. Because the CEO makes the majority of organisational choices, there is little autonomy. Lower-level employees cannot vote against business policies or participate in decision-making in this hierarchical structure.

Decentralised arrangements, such as the flat organisational structure, on the other hand, place greater emphasis on team operations. Employees can make comments and express concerns about critical issues in the business.

Advantages of Hierarchical Structure

The following are some of the advantages that an organisation may gain from employing a hierarchical structure:

#1. Clearly Defined Career and Advancement Paths

Employees can more easily determine the many chains of command when a company has a hierarchical structure. Clear advancement possibilities can aid in attracting and retaining outstanding workers. Employee morale, motivation, and productivity can all benefit from promotions.

#2. Department Loyalty

Employees in companies with hierarchical systems are divided into teams and departments. Employees who work in a department develop a sense of team spirit and loyalty. These attitudes can aid in employee retention and motivate team members to collaborate to achieve the organisation’s goals.

#3. Effective Communication and Leadership

A hierarchical structure assists employees in understanding the many levels of leadership. When delivering progress updates or reporting difficulties, employees usually know who to contact. Management benefits as well because they may utilize their position to allocate work properly and assure operational efficiency. Overall, hierarchical arrangements can improve team communication and collaboration.

#4. Delegation Of Authority

A hierarchical structure delegated power to different employees rather than having one entity possess all of the authority. This allocation benefits the CEO since it allows them to focus on decisions that affect the entire firm. Supervisors at the departmental level have the authority to supervise general employees’ daily performance.

#5. Specialisation is Encouraged

Employees can become specialised in a particular field thanks to the many departments within a hierarchical structure organisation. Specialisation guarantees that a company can provide high-quality products and services that set it apart from competitors. A newspaper, for example, could assign personnel to responsibilities such as news reporters, sports reporters, and designers. News reporters can concentrate on breaking news, whereas sports writers can concentrate on sports writing. Sports writing can enhance their artistic skills to generate visually appealing news pieces.

Disadvantages Of Hierarchical Structure In Business

Although implementing a hierarchical structure offers numerous advantages, this organisational strategy can also have disadvantages. Consider the following potential drawbacks:

#1. It Can Be Expensive

Because a hierarchical structure necessitates several divisions, businesses that use this organisational strategy have several managers and supervisors. Employees in these positions have a higher degree of education and experience, necessitating a higher salary. Companies can avoid the impact of rising pay on profitability by managing their budgets and hiring only the management team required for efficient operations.

#2. Decision-making Takes Longer

Managers and supervisors frequently participate in decision-making in hierarchical organisations. While this level of skill may appear to be advantageous, it may also result in slower actions. This effect is especially noticeable when a quick judgment is required to respond to an urgent business decision.

A corporation, for example, may involve numerous supervisors in the hiring process. Differing viewpoints may cause hiring choices to be delayed, causing qualified individuals to apply elsewhere. A hierarchical structure in an organisation might avoid this problem by delegating decisions to particular management teams and limiting involvement throughout the organisation.

#3. Ineffective Communication 

Employees who are divided into separate departments and levels may experience a breakdown in communication. Professionals may believe that communicating with other teams is unnecessary or that they lack the necessary resources. A hierarchical structure in a business may be able to avoid this problem by holding regular cross-department meetings. Prioritising communication across the business encourages effective teamwork and ensures that chances for collaboration are readily available to all departments.

#4. Rivalry Between Departments

Within a hierarchical structure in a business or organisation, the separation into teams may also result in department rivalry. Employees may feel compelled to compete with their colleagues rather than collaborate toward the company’s goals. These separate departments may also make decisions that benefit them only and not the firm. Fortunately, a focus on unity can reduce the likelihood of department competition. The organisation can guarantee that every department gets the resources it needs, as well as set similar regulations across departments, allowing employees to seamlessly migrate throughout their careers.

How Other Organisational Structures Differ From Hierarchical Structure

Aside from the hierarchical structure, organisations use a variety of additional organisational systems. Most have been reinforced to meet the increasing needs of current business operations and may be useful to your firm. The following describes how such structures vary from hierarchical structures:

#1. The Structure of a Matrix

A matrix organisational structure uses a grid-like reporting structure, allowing individuals with similar talents to occupy a single working pool and report to multiple managers. This fosters a collaborative environment, allowing separate reporting systems for work-related and organisational issues, requiring clear directions.

#2. Horizontal/Flat Structure

This organisational structure is common in small businesses or startups, allowing quick, independent decision-making and reducing middle management. It’s effective for highly-trained staff and enhances transparency. However, it’s challenging to implement in large organizations with numerous personnel. e difficult.

#3. Divisional Structure

A divisional organisational structure divides a corporation into divisions that represent several products or geographies. Each division therefore works as a separate firm with its hierarchical structure. The independent operational flow assures that other corporate branches continue to function normally even if one of them fails. Its disadvantages include the separation of specialised functions, which causes inefficiencies in operations.

#4. Team-Based Structure

A team-based organisational structure includes teams that collaborate to achieve a common objective while performing individual tasks. It is more adaptable and less hierarchical to improve decision-making, teamwork, and problem-solving. Also, it emphasises the importance and worth that each person has to the organisation, regardless of how complex or simple their jobs are. It also enables people from all around the world to collaborate and create items or services. As the company’s aims evolve, so will the teams.

What Are the Three Most Fundamental Hierarchical Structures?

The hierarchical structures utilised by most businesses today are classified into three types: functional, departmental, and matrix. Each of these types has advantages and disadvantages that business owners must evaluate before picking which one to use.

What is Another Name for Hierarchical structure?

The most prevalent sort of organisational structure is a hierarchical structure, commonly known as a line organisation. Its chain of command is the one that most people think of when they think of a firm: power runs from the board of directors down to the CEO and then through the remainder of the company from top to bottom.

Is Netflix a Hierarchical organisation?

A good example of a flat organisation is Netflix. The organisation is noted for its free and responsible culture, in which employees are encouraged to make independent decisions and contribute to the company’s progress.

Which Businesses Employ a Matrix Structure?

Businesses that adopt the matrix organisational structure are successful. Phillips, Caterpillar, and Texas Instruments are a few examples of successful firms that have adopted a Matrix organisational structure at some point in time.

What is the Significance of Hierarchy?

Hierarchies provide structure and consistency in our lives. They assign us routines, obligations, and duties. We may not know how much we require such items until we lose them.


Hierarchical structures promote order, efficiency, and consistency by defining rules and standards. Although often seen as rigid, they can be beneficial for firms by separating tasks and establishing effective work techniques. Understanding the best organisational culture for business goals can help create techniques to guide the culture. Organisational structures are necessary for the proper functioning of any organisation.


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