Minimum Chain of Command: Definition & Principles

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Knowing who to turn to when you have a question is essential in a company if you want tasks to get completed correctly. In this lesson, we will learn how companies determine who is in charge.

Looking at Chain of Command

Have you ever been in a position where you needed help, but you did not know who to ask? Perhaps you were shopping and you had a question about a product, but you didn't know who could help you?

Well, in a business not knowing who to turn to when there is a problem can be a disaster. Chaos would certainly break out if every employee was wandering around trying to find someone to turn to every time they had a question. In order to keep business running smoothly, companies rely on the chain of command, where each employee knows who is in charge, from the top position all the way down to the newest intern.

In this lesson we will learn all about the chain of command, but before we do - meet Melanie! Melanie just started a new job, and in order to do her job efficiently she too needs to learn about chain of command. We will follow her as she learns the basics.


Before we go much further, let's start with some basic definitions. Chain of command describes the levels of power in a company, ranging from the CEO to management to the newest entry level employee. In other words, it explains who is in charge of who.

Within a chain of command, authority moves from the top to the bottom. Melanie has learned that the chain of command explains who her supervisor is should she have any problems or questions - the chain of command ensures that every employee understands who is in charge and who they can turn to with issues.

The concept of minimum chain of command is much like the regular chain of command in that it explains the order of power and authority. However, it revolves around the principle that management should try to minimize the number of authority figures to be more efficient.

Melanie has learned that minimum chain of command means her company has as few supervisors as possible to allow the company to operate efficiently and still be successful. In this kind of chain of command, upper management has the role of finding just the right amount of managers so that the company can run smoothly, without too many people seeking power, nor so few supervisors that the company can't run.

Why Is Minimum Chain of Command Important?

Now that Melanie has learned about minimum chain of command, she's wondering, why is it important? Why does it matter how many people are in charge at a company?

Well, companies strive for minimum chain of command in order to avoid tall organizations. A tall organization is one in which there are many levels of authority with many different managers who each only have a tiny bit of power. Tall organizations are usually confusing and slow because their employees don't know which one of the many managers to turn to. To add to the confusion, it often takes a longer amount of time to solve problems in tall organizations because there are many different levels of authority solutions have to go through before they can be implemented.

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