A tall organizational structure definition is an organization broken down into a distinct hierarchy. With this structure, an organization will have a number of managers, each of which will be responsible for controlling a portion of the organization.

Tall Organizational Structure: Basics

In general, tall organizations are extremely complex. This means that when there is a change in the market, these organizations may respond slower than normal because managers have a much smaller scope of control. A tall organizational structure means that management is broken down into several layers, with executives on top and normal employees on the bottom. A top-down structure is another way to refer to a tall organizational structure.

As a company grows, so will its hierarchy, with the largest tall organizations having very complicated chains of command. When a tall organization is very large, it can make it difficult to move information throughout the organization quickly. Tall organizations, however, usually won't have more than eight management levels. This is because the more management levels that exist, the smaller the span of control of each manager.

Generally, there are more disadvantages to the tall organizational structure than there are advantages. In a tall organization, there will be a large number of managers, and each manager will usually be responsible for a small group of employees. This means that the span of control of each manager is very narrow. In some regards, having many managers can be beneficial, as it reduces confusion and allows managers to control their area of the company more easily.

The problem, however, is that it can take much more time to inform executives about decisions made at the different levels of the company. Because there are so many different levels of management in a tall organization, it's possible that every layer will have its own distinct rules. This means that one level in the organization can be managed completely differently than another level. Obviously, this can increase the bureaucracy of the organization, and it can also impede work. Differences in management also have the potential to increase the organization's costs.

Every manager in a tall organization will be responsible for a small group of employees, which can allow them to more closely supervise each employee, and it also makes it easier to spend time training employees on a one-on-one basis.

Unfortunately, this close supervision can also have several disadvantages:

  • It creates a rigid path for promotion.
  • Employees feel like they have less responsibility.
  • An adversarial relationship between managers and employees can occur.

Communication and Costs

As mentioned, one of the biggest drawbacks of the tall organizational structure is that it can cause difficulties in making and communicating important business decisions.

In tall organizations, it's possible that a business decision will require approval by several people, and because of the hierarchical structure of these organizations, obtaining this approval can be very time consuming. For instance, managers may have trouble accessing executives without making their way through the different levels of the organization. Also, because communication happens in a straight line up through the different management levels, it's easy for parallel groups to be left out.

Additional costs are another concern with the tall organizational structure. The costs of operating one of these organizations are usually greater than other business structures. The primary reason that tall organizations are more expensive to operate is the need to hire many more supervisors and managers than other business.

The additional time required to make decisions can also increase costs in tall organizations. If cost is cost is a concern, giving your business a flat structure is usually the better decision.

Using the Tall Organizational Structure

The tall organizational structure is typically used for larger corporations. This can be beneficial if a company wants executives to focus on making major business decisions instead of using their energy on the various daily decisions that are important when running a business. It can also be easier to expand a business with the tall organizational structure, as there is no need to disrupt the existing layers of the business when adding a new layer. Technological advances in the modern era have made it easier to run a tall organization, as the availability of the internet makes communication between different layers of the organization much easier.

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