Line and Staff Functions
- By Nora K. Rice, Rich Kellett
- May 24, 2001
In this overview, line functions and staff functions are separated. In large organizations, individuals often are dedicated to focus on the staff functions. In smaller organizations line and staff functions may be intermixed. All levels vertically are responsible for implementing policies and legal requirements. Line functions: These are oriented on the direct delivery or distribution of products and services to an agency's customers. Distribution may involve the distributing of funds through benefits programs. It also includes the "delivery" of operational activities such as warfighting.
A chief operations officer could be assigned the responsibility of managing operations, programs and central services. Similarly, an executive officer or chief of staff could be assigned responsibility for managing staff functions.
Line processes include such things as applications (such as licensing), benefits transfer, filings (such as tax forms), information collection and dissemination, procurement, regulatory management, revenue collection, transactions. Staff functions: In theory, staff functions operate to carry the burden of activities that detract from conducting operational activities such as ongoing operations, new program development and central services. Often staff functions carry with them both a reporting and oversight role.
Legislation seems to be driving additional staff functions that may require the creation of new staffs or the layering of additional functions into current staffs.
Staff functions include such things as accounting, acquisition management, budgeting, capital planning, financial management, marketing, customer relationship management, organizational maturity/capabilities (proposed), personnel management and training, records management, strategic planning, travel.
Operations: Ongoing products and services that are provided externally. Operations might include service delivery, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Programs: Ongoing projects or collections of projects that represent the development of a new or substantially changed product or service. Central services: Ongoing products and services that are provided centrally to the organization internally. These can be centralized at any level or decentralized. Typically, inventory management would not be done below the business-unit level except for large projects or operations. Business units: When the organization has a large number of products and services, some may be organized into another layer called a business unit. A business unit is a set of related or similar projects/programs.