Saturday, March 16, 2013

Line and Staff - The Origin

The term "Line Managers" is much used, but not understood fully or is understood differently by different people. Many people use the term "Line Managers" simply to mean their own immediate boss, or to mean the manager of any work group in any function - but these are not the original meanings.
One may refer to the book The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler for the origin of the terms "line" and "staff."

The early American railroad companies were the giants of their day. They were massive in terms of number of employees, capital employed and geographical spread. They created new forms of organization based on centralization of information and command. Employees were divided into two categories - Line and Staff. "Line" was concerned to the day to day operations of the rail road line. "Staff" was concerned with all the support work that was required to make this happen - accounting, marketing, legal and so forth.

So, "line managers" are concerned with the core activities of the organization.
"Staff" managers are in charge of the specialist support functions which make sure proper procedures are followed.

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