Organizational chart

diagram that shows the structure of an organization and the relationships and relative ranks of its parts and positions/jobs
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Organization Chart of Tabulating Machine Co., forerunner of IBM, December 1917.

The organizational chart (also called organization chart, org chart, organigram, or organogram) is a diagram that shows the structure of an organization and the relationships and relative ranks of its parts and positions/jobs. The term is also used for similar diagrams, for example ones showing the different elements of a field of knowledge or a group of languages.



Quotes are arranged in chronological order

19th centuryEdit

Staff Organisation Diagram, J.S. Lewis 1896.
  • Some officials being disposed, not infrequently, to regard themselves as equal, if not superior to men who are really their masters, it is essential to the well-being of all industrial concerns to have a definite organisation under which responsibility may not only be fixed, but the relative positions or rank of the officials clearly defined. For this purpose it is necessary to have recourse to a diagram such as the Specimen (see image)...
    The diagram should be carefully drawn in bold lines and clear letters on a sheet of drawing paper not less than 'double elephant' size. It should then be framed and placed in a conspicuous position in the general offices...
    The diagram can of course be varied to suit particular organisations, though, as it stands, it is as nearly as possible in accordance with the general practice prevailing in this country...

20th century, first halfEdit

  • The tendency of modern commercial systems to find expression in organization charts has heretofore confined itself principally to manufacturing plants and secondarily to retail and wholesale houses. Such a chart as applied to an organization whose business it is to do building work is of peculiar interest not only because it is an innovation, but because of the many phases of work, none of which are necessarily dependent on the other from a business standpoint, which it must cover.
    • Kendall Banning. "An Organization chart for builders," in: Arch Wilkinson Shaw, The Magazine of Business, Vol. 8, 1905, p. 623
    • The articles summary reads: "How a business organization of contract designers has indicated its functions in graphic form by a chart on which is shown the various kinds of architectural, carpentry, masonry and decorative work which it superintends."
Chart of a Corporate Manufacturing Enterprise, 1909
  • What may be termed the anatomy of an industrial body, is most graphically shown by means of charts. Free use of charts will be made throughout these papers. With properly designed charts the logical divisions of authority or expense can be clearly shown.
    Fig. 1 furnishes a graphic illustration of the principal components of the organization under discussion. In the first group we find the owners (stockholders) whose line of communication with the business is through the board of directors. Subordinate to the board of directors are its own executive officers, the executive committee, and general manager.
    The connecting lines show the executive committee to be in direct communication with the board of directors, while the general manager is in direct communication with both the executive committee and the board of directors.
    Under the general manager are the commercial and manufacturing divisions, over both of which he has direct supervision.
    • James Bray Griffith, Administrative and industrial organization. American school of correspondence, 1909. p. 6: About charting the organization
  • Organization charts. — A chart showing clearly the line of authority and of responsibility of each individual in an organization will go far toward removing many inter-departmental jealousies. The chart should be so simple that it is self-explanatory upon inspection. Each man's position is thus made perfectly clear and he easily informs himself as to what course to take when transacting business with other departments. If applied to a factory, each workman will know to what particular gang boss or job boss he is directly responsible; each gang boss or job boss will know to what foreman he must report; and each foreman will know to what superintendent he is responsible; and each superintendent will know where his authority begins and ends with respect to other departmental heads. Further-more, the chart should show who is responsible for machines and equipment. To be most effective the chart should be hung in a conspicuous place. Each of the manufacturing departments should have one as well as the office; 24x36 inches is a suitable size. When made in the form of blue-prints charts are inexpensive, but they should be framed and protected by glass, to shield them from pencil markings and other injuries.
Prime Organization Elements of an Industrial Body
Prime and Working Authorities of an Industrial Body
  • Organization aims to unite individuals into a body which shall work together for a common end. Specifically, organization prepares for the transaction of business by electing and appointing officers and committees, delegating authorities and bringing into systematic connection and cooperation, each and every part of the industrial body. Right organization, in short, puts vitality into the entire factory, secures the efficient working-together of all employees, from the manager's office to the mechanic's bench, routes materials, sub-divides work, inspects output and delivers the right goods, fully processed, at the shipping room door on the correct delivery date.
    In analyzing organization work, a single chart can frequently express more than any amount of detailed written explanation. First of all, clearly define authorities within your establishment ; then chart those authorities simply and graphically, so that every workman knows to whom he is responsible, and every executive knows who is responsible to him. Place this chart conspicuously in every department where each employee can see it. In case of disputed authority, final proof is immediately at hand. There is then no loop-hole through which a neglectful workman, foreman or executive can crawl no longer does he have the excuse that he "thought somebody else was going to do it." In clean-cut form, his duties and relations to other men of the organization are laid down once and for all, and responsibility rests on the right man. Failure so to specify responsibilities inevitably means confusion all down the line.
  • The frame work of the entire organization should be sketched, and the particular place in the scheme of things which his department and his position occupy should be explained. Almost any one can be shown a particular location on a map. An organization chart is a map.
  • The Finished Plan. — The particular part of the organization to be re-organized having been selected, the plan when completed should consist of:
(a) A brief introductory statement explaining the fundamental changes proposed and the reasons for such changes.
(b) An organization chart showing the titles and functions of the organization units in the proposed new department or division.
(c) A routine process chart setting forth the new routine.
(d) A description of the new process in narrative form, that is, following the routine through its stages without regard to the organization units which will perform the required functions, accompanied by drawings or samples of the forms to be used filled in with illustrated hypothetical cases based upon actual practice.
(e) Standard practice instructions for each unit of the organization.
(f) Desk instructions for individual clerks, setting forth clearly every detail of their duties in connection with the new program, accompanied by illustrated forms.
1920s and later
  • An Organization Chart is a cross section picture covering every relationship in the bank. It is a schematic survey showing department functions and interrelations, lines of authority, responsibility, communication and counsel. Its purpose is “to bring the various human parts of the organization into effective correlation and co-operation."
    • Bankers Magazine, Vol. 102 (1921), p. 393; The quote cited the definition of organization from the Standard Dictionary, see als: John William Schulze (1919), Office Administration, p. 113
  • The organization chart is a diagram showing graphically the relation of one official to another, or others, of a company. It is also used to show the relation of one department to another, or others, or of one function of an organization to another, or others.
    This chart is valuable in that it enables one to visualize a complete organization, by means of the picture it presents.
    There is no accepted form for making organization charts other than putting the principal official, department or function first, or at the head of the sheet, and the others below, in the order of their rank.
    The titles of officials and sometimes their names are enclosed in "boxes" or circles. Lines are generally drawn from one "box" or circle to another to show the relation of one official or department to the others.
  • Use of Organization Charts - Much has to be done to promote the popularity of these charts by industrial engineers, altho at the present time they are not common among ordinary business concerns. Tho they are beginning to find their way into administrative and business enterprises, considering their demonstrated value the use of these charts is comparatively slight.
  • In 1918 an inquiry was made by Dr. L. P. Ayres of the Division of Statistics for organization charts from as many as 105 different business enterprises. Of the 58 replies received, 30 showed that no organization charts were available tho in a number of instances it was stated that organization charts made sometime before had not been kept up to date and did not, therefore, represent the conditions then prevailing in the business. From 28 concerns the actual charts were received.
  • To the student of business structure the organization chart is what the anatomical chart is to the student of the human body. It is a device by means of which relations of the different parts of the organization can be brought out more clearly than by a verbal description. The student of business derives from them the same sort of aid that the student of medicine does from the anatomical chart, which enables him to visualize the organs of the human body. While the analogy is helpful, it is like every other analogy, in being only partial.
  • An organization chart is merely an administrative device which enables an executive to see the men who are responsible for performing the activities of the company.
  • In preparing organization charts of an established concern, care should be exercised to see that the charts portray conditions exactly as they are, and not merely as the author thinks they should be. One of the greatest values of organization charts and write-ups is the knowledge gained through the study of conditions made necessary in compiling the data.
    The thorough analysis of organization conditions, the impartial study of personnel, and the actual putting down in black and white bring out forcefully loose ends and weaknesses in the organization structure that otherwise might never be recognized and would continue an ever fruitful source of waste and an unsuspected obstacle in the path of the growth and development of the company. Only too frequently some of the following conditions are found in the course of the thorough, unbiased study, which is a necessary part of the charting process.
    • William Bouck Cornell (1928) Industrial organization and management. p. 120 ; Cited in: John J. Unterkofler (1954; p. 17).
  • An organization chart is not to take the place of the printed rules and regulations. Its chief use lies in that it is likely to lead to more careful planning of the organization and the placing of responsibility as well as making the task of defining duties easier. Each superintendent of schools would find that an organization chart would be of great assistance to him in perfecting his organization.
    • Amos Leonard Heer (1928), The present status of business executives in the public schools of the United States in cities of 25,000 and more inhabitants, p. 73
  • Because any arrangement of squares, circles, and connecting lines has limitations in what it may portray, the organization chart is best regarded as an illustration accompanying a description of the departments, boards, bureaus...
    • Bureau of Municipal Research (Philadelphia, Pa.) (1932) Philadelphia's government, 1932, an organization chart and description. p. 1.
  • The Hawthorne researchers became more and more interested in the informal employee groups which tend to form within the formal organisation of the Company, and which are not likely to be represented in the organisation chart.
    • Fritz Roethlisberger and William J. Dickson (1939), Management and the worker: an account of a research program conducted by the Western electric company, Hawthorne works, Chicago. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Comparatively few of the companies surveyed have comprehensive company organization charts, graphically portraying their plans of organization. Even some of the largest companies, with world-wide operations and many subsidiaries, have no organization charts to facilitate proper understanding and study of their organization arrangements. This condition is apparently due to lack of appreciation of the need and value of such charts, reluctance to indicate relative ranking of executive positions which might give rise to dissention, or lack of staff assistants experienced in making simple, effective charts.
    The companies which do have comprehensive organization charts appear to have the soundest organization plans/ Furthermore, in the course of preparing charts for the companies that did not have them, many obvious organization weaknesses were brought to light which would not be readily apparent except through the charting process. It is therefore felt that a good organization chart for the company as a whole, with a break-down chart for each major division, is an essential first step in the analysis, clarification, and understanding of any organization plan.
    In some companies organization charts are held very closely, only a few top executives being permitted to see them. In other companies all staff and supervisory employees are given copies of the general organization charts and a comprehensive explanation of the whole plan of organization...
    • Paul Eugene Holden, Lounsbury Spaight Fish, Hubert L. Smith (1941) Top-management Organization and Control: A Research Study of the Management Policies and Practices of Thirty-one Leading Industrial Corporations. p. 93.
1862 Diagram of the Federal Government and American Union.
  • The purposes of functional charts is
1. to get an overall picture of the existing organizational structure
2. discover organizational weaknesses such as:
a. confused lines of authority and responsibility
b. duplication of functions
c. inefficient allocation of personnel
d. too extended a span of control
e. lack of intermediate supervisory levels
3. discover organizational strengths which may be used in setting standards of good structure
4. provide a basis for planning
5. provide a basis for reorganization
  • Civil Service Commission, Division of Training (1943) Guide To Municipal Functional Organization Charts. New York City, p. 10 ; Cited in: John J. Unterkofler (1954; p. 19).
  • The formal administrative design can never adequately or fully reflect the concrete organization to which it refers, for the obvious reason that no abstract plan or pattern can—or may, if it is to be useful—exhaustively describe an empirical totality. At the same time, that which is not included in the abstract design (as reflected, for example, in a a staff and-line organization chart) is vitally relevant to the maintenance and development of the formal system itself.
    • Philip Selznick (1948). "Foundations of the Theory of Organization". American Sociological Review 13 (1): 25–35. p. 25

20th century, second halfEdit

  • How many people, if asked, could tell you exactly where they fit in, and exactly what their duties, authority, and relationships are with every other member in their organization? If an answer could be given at all, it would require much thought and debate. So, it is difficult to visualize an organization in its entirety, and to clearly picture just where an individual stands in it. Because such difficulties exist for an individual, consider the situation in which top level management finds itself when confronted with the same question. And because necessity is the mother of invention, a tool for management has been invented to enable the manager to quickly locate who is responsible for what, and why. This tool we call the organization chart. It is but one of the tools of management.
    • John J. Unterkofler (1954) The functions of organization charts and manuals as tools of management. p. 15.
  • An organization chart is a graphic presentation of the arrangement and interrelationships of the subdivisions and functions of an organization as it exists.
    • Civil Service Commission, Division of Training (1943) Guide To Municipal Functional Organization Charts. New York City, p. 1; Cited in: John J. Unterkofler (1954) The functions of organization charts and manuals as tools of management. p. 15
  • It is probable that one day we shall begin to draw organization charts as a series of linked groups rather than as a hierarchical structure of individual "reporting" relationships.
  • Asked to state the reasons that led them to develop organization charts, the 118 firms gave answers that may be grouped in two classes... One group of responses deals with charting for the purpose of informing employees and outsiders on the nature of an organization structure. The second class of reasons for charting concerns the discovery and cure of organization defects. Many companies, naturally, find themselves using the charting process for both kinds of activity, even though they may have started out with communication as the primary objective. The author found, in many interviews with company executives..., that a firm may start out solely with the idea of developing a graphic representation of the organization for purposes of communication. Before long, however—in the process of setting the organization down on paper—conflicts, duplications, and burdensome spans of control become apparent. The first penciled sketch of the organization may cause astonishment in top management circles. The reaction is often surprise that so many previously undetected weaknesses exist.
  • We have already seen that rank in business is, at best, a shaky thing and that the organization chart is a poor device for showing it.
    • Karol White (1963) Understanding the company organization chart. p. 73.
  • Since the concentric organization chart has neither top nor bottom, the interpretations of the relationships existing within the organization are not dependent upon the position of the diagram which represents them. Any organization chart is designed to present certain facts about a given organization at given time. These facts or relationships do not depend on viewing the organization from any particular angle or any specific position, which is also the case for the concentric organization chart. However, with the traditional organization chart, the relationships which it intends to portray can be interpreted properly only when the chart is presented to the viewer in a certain position, that is, with the top at the top and the bottom at the bottom. Should this not be done, the organization should be upside down Should this not be done, the organization would be upside down, with relationships existing inversely to the facts of the organizational structure.
    • Edward Franz Leopold Brech (1965) Organisation, the framework of management, p. 438 (published earlier in: Journal of applied psychology. Vol 34. p. 377).
  • In some firms role relationships prescribed by the chart seemed to be of secondary importance to personal relationships between individuals.
    • Joan Woodward, Industrial organization; theory and practice. 1965; 1980; p. 24
  • It is not surprising that the organization chart is a frustrating instrument when used for other purposes, or when the chart is drawn to conform to some executive's ideal rather than to the observable facts of organizational life.
    • Frank Baker (1969) Industrial Organizations and Health: Selected readings. Vol 1. p. 50.
  • An organization chart is not the organization itself. Nevertheless, as in the case of the road map and the road system it represents, we can better understand and communicate many aspects of the organization with the benefit of a chart or diagram showing its important components and some relationships among these components.
    • Herbert G. Hicks (1971) The management of organizations: a systems and human resources. p. 259.
  • No organization chart is likely ever to be displayed in a major art museum. What matters is not the chart but the organization. A chart is nothing but an oversimplification which enables people to make sure that they talk about the same things in discussing organization. One never makes.
  • The organization chart will initially reflect the first system design, which is almost surely not the right one […] as one learns, he changes the design... Management structures also need to be changed as the system changes…
    • Fred Brooks (1975) The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.
  • The Erie's general superintendent (Daniel McCallum) stressed the value of adhering to explicit lines of authority and communication. "All subordinates should be accountable to and be directed by their immediate superiors only; as obedience cannot be enforced where the foreman in immediate charge is interfered with by a superior officer giving orders directly to his subordinates."
    McCallum, nevertheless, failed to define precisely the relationship between the geographical division superintendent and the other functional managers of the division who reported to the general superintendent. He saw the problem clearly enough, pointing out that there were "some exceptions" to the rule that subordinates can communicate only through their senior officers. For example, "Conductors and station agents report, daily, their operations directly to the General Superintendent," and not to their division superintendents. He thought that the general superintendent would have the time and information needed to coordinate these activities. To illustrate more clearly these lines of authority, McCallum drew up a detailed chart-certainly one of the earliest organization charts in an American business enterprise.
  • An organization chart is a drawing depicting how the responsibilities and functions of the organization are divided up among its workers. It usually shows who reports to whom.
    • A. Leslie Derbyshire (1981) Mastering Management p. 230.
  • It is sometimes stated that the typical organization chart is undemocratic in that it emphasizes the superiority and inferiority of people and positions.
    • Christine M. Koontz (1990) Essentials Of Management. p. 205.
  • The work of all those listed in the organization chart is impossible to acknowledge adequately.
    • Ch Petit-Jean-Genaz (1992) EPAC 92: Third European Particle Accelerator Conference : Berlin. Vol 1. p. v.
  • One must permit his people the freedom to seek added work and greater responsibility. In my organization, there are no formal job descriptions or organization charts. Responsibilities are defined in a general way, so that people are not circumscribed. All are permitted to do as they think best and to go to anyone and anywhere for help. Each person is then limited only by his own ability.
  • The organization chart is a sort of map, an aerial photograph if you like, in which all linkages between the individuals listed are complete and no disagreements or omissions occur.
    • Adrian F. Furnham, Barrie Gunter (1993) Corporate assessment: auditing a company's personality. p. 180.
  • An organization chart is an example of a graph: the nodes are interpreted as positions in the organization, and the links, the reporting and authority lines.
    • James Robert Taylor, Elizabeth J. Van Every (1993) The vulnerable fortress: bureaucratic organization and management. p. 202.
  • It may come as a surprise to the T-oriented analyst that the typical organization chart is a poor guide regarding the locus of power in organizations: Real power does not lie in documents and memos outlining your terms of reference and area of jurisdiction: it lies in what you can achieve in practice.
  • An organization chart is a convenient place to begin building planning models. A Note that as an organization is an object, so are the organization units. An organization chart depicts an object aggregation hierarchy
    • Stephen Montgomery (1994) Object-Oriented Information Engineering. p. 62.
  • The organization chart is a graphic representation of the departmentalization process. Most organization charts are positional; that is, they are organized by title and rank
    • Barbara J. Stevens Barnum, Karlene M. Kerfoot (1995) The Nurse as Executive. p. 64.
  • One reason the informal organization chart is never drawn and printed is that it's doubtful every one knows all parts of it.
    • Loren B. Belker (1997) The First-time Manager. p. 41.
  • An organization chart is, in fact, a type of flowchart. Some flowcharts that contain significantly more narrative than others are referred to as narrative flowcharts.
    • Nancy J. Campbell (1998) Writing Effective Policies and Procedures. p. 143.
  • The organization chart is important for several reasons. It shows each individual's position within the organization. It shows the line responsibilities within the organization and who reports to whom. It shows how the organization is structured and how the various administrative functions within the organization are grouped.
    • Newby Chris (1998) Sales Strategies. p. 79
  • McCallum quickly moved to install a management system to replace the overloaded manager. He broke his railroad into geographical divisions of manageable size. Each was headed by a superintendent responsible for the operations within his division, Each divisional superintendent was required to submit detailed reports to central headquarters, from where McCallum and his aides coordinated and gave general direction to the operations of the separate divisions. Lines of authority between each superintendent and his subordinates and between each superintendent and headquarters were clearly laid out. In sketching these lines of authority on paper, McCallum created what might have been the first organizational chart for an American business.
  • The organization chart is a distortion of how people actually relate to each other. Each line does not represent the same process.
    • Ian Cunningham (1999) The Wisdom of Strategic Learning: the self managed learning solution. p. 154.
  • Organization charts are diagrams that show how people, operations, functions, equipment, activities, etc., are organized, arranged, structured, and/or interrelated. They are applicable with any size of organization. A typical organization chart consists of text enclosed in geometric shapes (sometimes referred to as boxes, enclosures, box enclosures, or symbols) that are connected with lines (sometimes referred to as links) or arrows. Charts of this type generally progress from top to bottom or left to right. Organization charts are sometime considered a variation of flow chart or flow diagram.
    • Robert L. Harris (1999) Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference. p. 260.
  • This organization chart is also the point of reference for all Job Descriptions.
    • Diane M. Hoffmann (1999) Contextual Communication Organization and Training. p. 134.
  • In practice, the organization chart is a poor way to describe the happenings in an organization and almost worthless as a way in which to prescribe the actions of managers at the various hierarchical levels. One of the weaknesses is that the organization chart is purely hierarchical; it may defer to conventional management techniques such as matrix management or 'group working' but its only proper point of reference is that of organizational hierarchy. For a complex and changing organization form... the main purpose of the traditional organization chart seems to be to decide who to blame when something goes wrong.
    • Clifford Matthews (1999) Managing International Joint Ventures: The Route to Globalizing. p. 43.

21st centuryEdit

  • Organization charts are subject to important limitations. A chart shows only formal authority relationships and omits the many significant informal and informational relationships.
    • Harold Koontz and Heinz Weihrich (2006) Essentials Of Management. p. 198.
  • An organization chart is a visual display of an organization's structural skeleton. Such charts show how departments are tied together along the principal lines of authority. They show reporting relationships, not lines of communication. Organization charts are tools of management to deploy human resources and are common in both profit and nonprofit organizations.
    • S. Rao Vallabhaneni (2012) Wiley CIA Exam Review, Internal Audit Activity's Role in Governance, Risk, and Control. p. 189.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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