Another principle of administration, scalar chain, also known as the scalar principle, refers to the links in the authority and communication in an organization. It involves a clear and defined hierarchy of positions and levels of authority, with each position reporting to the one directly above it, all the way up to the highest level of authority in the agency.
It is predicated on all members of the organization recognizing this unbroken line of authority from the highest levels of management, down to the rank and file. Each level of the chain reports to the level above it and is responsible for overseeing and directing the work of the level below it.
This helps ensure that information flows smoothly within the agency. Each level of the chain is responsible for transmitting information up and down the chain, which ensures that everyone has access to the information they need to perform their duties effectively.
According to Fayol, the chain must be followed strictly.
That said, this chain may be circumvented during times of emergency and even for operational efficiency. This can be done by allowing two people at the same level to connect with each other instead of going through the people above them first, as long as their supervisors are aware of this communication. This exception is called a gangplank.
If implemented, the manager at the highest level of the organization has the most decision-making power, and responsibility for decisions decreases as one goes down the chain. Highly-centralized organizations use this to ensure that decision-making power remains in the control of high-ranking officers.
Advantages of Scalar Chain
- Efficient decision-making This can remove dissent from decision-making processes as all managers know what decisions are within their scope.
- Clear lines of communication This allows employees access to their immediate supervisor who can run information up the chain of command if necessary.
- Well-defined relationships Creates a linear delegation of authority in which relationships between managers and their subordinates are clearly defined.
Disadvantages of Scalar Chain
- Lower levels of management may feel isolated Top-level management is only accessible through a linear chain of command.
- Potential for miscommunication If one person in the hierarchy does not communicate information accurately, everyone who receives it after them will suffer.
- No diagonal communication Diagonal communication refers to the connection between two people of different ranks from different units of the organization. Scalar chain does not allow this type of communication due to the hierarchical setup of the lines of communication.