What are the advantages and disadvantages of long chains of command in business?

1 Answer

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is important to have a chain of command in any business of any significant size.  Without a chain of command, you are more likely to end up with chaos.  However, as a chain of command gets longer, it can start to cause a variety of problems.  Let us examine the advantages and disadvantages of long chains of command.

The major advantage of a long chain of command is that it allows higher management to keep control over a large company.  As the size of a firm increases, it becomes much harder (and indeed impossible) for the firm’s leader to exercise personal control over everything that happens in the business.  There are simply too many things going on and the leader cannot be everywhere at once.  Therefore, a chain of command is necessary.  The chain of command allows orders that the leader issues to be heard by everyone in the company.  It also makes sure that there is someone who is responsible for carrying out those orders at each level of the firm’s hierarchy.  This prevents chaos from occurring and allows the company to run relatively smoothly even though it is very large.

The major disadvantage of a long chain of command is that the company becomes excessively bureaucratic and inflexible.  If you have a long chain of command, people at each level might feel the need to “pass the buck” on most decisions.  Instead of acting quickly on their own, they will prefer to find out what the person above them in the hierarchy wants.  This will make it very hard for the firm to adapt to changing conditions in a timely manner.

Thus, while long chains of command allow a business to grow, they also make it less flexible and less able to adapt to change.