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Chain of command

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Chain of command

The chain of command refers to the vertical lines of authority within an organisation enabling orders to be passed down through the layers of hierarchy.

If the organisation has a flat structure then there will be short chain of command. Conversely, as the organisation structure becomes taller with more levels of authority, so the chain of command will lengthen. As the chain becomes longer, there is a greater risk of poor communication with some individuals in the chain not passing on information, or misinterpreting or filtering content. The game of 'Chinese whispers' is an example of this in practice.

By referring to the firm's organisation chart, it is usually possible to see which individual managers are responsible for, or accountable to, others. However, chains of command are harder to see in more flexible structures, such as matrix organisation.