Tall versus Flat Organization Structures

Tall versus Flat Organization Structures

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In the early 20th century, organizations grew bigger and bigger, adding layer after layer of management until they came to have what are called tall organization structures. A tall organization structure is one in which the pyramidal organization chart would be quite tall because of the various levels of management. Some organizations had as many as 14 levels, and the span of control was small (that is, there we're few people reporting to each manager). You can imagine how a message would be distorted as it moved up the organization from manager to manager and then back down. When viewing such a tall organization, you saw a huge complex of managers, management assistants, secretaries, assistant secretaries, supervisors, trainers, and so on. The cost of keeping all these managers and support people was quite high. The paperwork they generated was enormous, and the inefficiencies in communication and decision making often became intolerable.

The result was the movement toward flatter organizations. A flat organization structure is one that has few layers of management (see Figure 8.3) and a broad span of control (that is, there are many people reporting to each manager). Such structures can be highly responsive to customer demands because authority and responsibility for making decisions may be given to lower-level employees and managers can be spared from certain day-to-day tasks. In a bookstore that has a flat organization structure, employees may have the authority to arrange shelves by category, process special orders for customers, and so on. In many ways, large organizations we're trying to match the friendliness of small firms, whose workers often knew the customers by name. The flatter organizations became, the broader the span of control became for most managers, and many managers lost their jobs. Figure 8.4 lists some advantages and disadvantages of a narrow versus a broad span of control.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Narrow Versus A Broad Span Of Control

The flatter the organization, the broader the span of control.



More control by top management

More chances for advancement

Greater specialization

Closer supervision


Reduced costs

More responsiveness to customers

Faster decision making

More empowerment



Less empowerment

Higher costs

Delayed decision making

Less responsiveness to customers


Fewer chances for advancement

Overworked managers

Loss of control

Less management expertise

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Posted in Home Improvement Post Date 03/30/2019






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