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Organisational Structure: Fundamental concepts

- Latifa Rahman Bidita

Key elements of organisational structure provide a framework for vertical control and horizontal

coordination of schools. These key elements include job specialization, departmentalization,

chain of command, authority and responsibility, centralization/decentralization, line and staff

authority, and span of control.

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An Organisational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, coordination, and

supervision directed toward the achievement of organizational aims. It can also considered as the

viewing glass or perspective through which individuals see their organization and its

environment. Organizational structure provides a framework for vertical control and horizontal

coordination of the organization. There are seven key elements that school administrators need to

address when they design their organizations structure:

Job Specialization
This is the basic concept of Organisational structure. The process of job specialization of
focusing ones occupational concentration on a specific area of expertise. The variety of
position in school required by the 50 state departments of education. The three most common
alternatives to job specialization are Job rotation, it involves systematically moving
employees from one place to another. Job enlargement, adds breadth to a job by increasing
the number and variety of activities performed by an employee and Job enrichment, adds
depth to a job by adding administrative activities.

Departmentalization involves diving an organisation into different departments, which
perform tasks according to the departments specialization in the organisation. School
districts may be broadly divided into divisions of instruction, business, and research and
development. The most common grouping in schools is by function. It offers number of
advantages because people who perform similar functions works together, each department
can be staffed by experts in that functional area. On the other hand, Personnel can develop
narrow and technical viewpoints that lose sight of the total system perspective.

Chain of Command
Chain of command, concerned with the flow of authority and responsibility with an
organisation, is associated with two underlying principles. Unity of command means that a
subordinate is accountable to only one person- the person from whom he receives authority
and responsibility. The Scalar principal means that authority and responsibility should flow
in a direct line vertically from top management to the lowest level. In the school district
organisation, there are vertical differentiations of positions ranging from teachers to
department head, principals, directors, and superintendent.

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Authority and Responsibility
Authority is the right to make decisions and direct the work with others to carry out
authorized jobs which they are assigned. Reasonability for the execution of work must be
accompanied by the authority to accomplish the job. Both provides the frameworks for
legitimizing organisational hierarchy and provides the basis for direction and control. In a
school district, authority stems from the board of education. This body then delegates to the
superintendent of schools the authority necessary to administrator the district.

Centralization is the concentration of control of an activity or organisation under a single
authority. Decentralization is the transfer of authority from central to local government.
Centralization and decentralization represent opposite ends of continuum. That is, authority
is delegated to a relatively small or large degree in the organisation.

Line and Staff Authority

Line Authority is the most fundamental authority within an organisation, reflects existing
superior-subordinate relationships which is direct chain of command. It relates specifically
to the unity of command principal and the scaler principal. Staff Authority is a power to
give advice, support and service to line departments. Example of staff is the assistant to in
which the person assists the superintendent or other superior in a variety of ways.

Span of management
Span of management refers to the numbers of subordinates reporting directly to a
supervisor. The most widely used criteria on this point suggest that spans can be larger at
lower levels in an organisation than at higher levels. Elementary schools, for example, are
characterized by very large spans, with as many as fifty or more teachers reporting to one


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Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy R. Judge, Organisational Behaviour, 14 th ed. (Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011)
Robert P. Vecchio, Organisational Behaviour: Core Concepts (Belmont, CA: Cengage South-
Western, 2006).

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