Department (organization)

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Example: Internal organization of a (fictitious) federal ministry. In German ministries, a department brings together several related departments , the department head heads these and reports to a state secretary .

In a company or government agency, a department is the grouping of several bodies that perform joint or directly related tasks in a uniform area of work and are subordinate to one body ( management body ).


As an organizational unit , it is an element of the organizational structure . The head of a department is called a department head . The division into different departments is the result of the division of labor.

A department is mainly created in large organizations for reasons of division of labor and specialization . The term department also implies that there are always several of these organizational units, because a single department would represent a company or an authority as a whole. Departments can in turn be combined into larger organizational units (main departments, offices ) until a pyramid-shaped structure, a hierarchy, is finally created.

In the German public administration, however, the department is the top hierarchical level below the authority management . It brings together several related papers . The (unit) group often still exists as an intermediate level.


Some departments are named after their subject area , such as the organization department or the human resources department . The organization department acts either as a line department with authority to issue instructions and decisions, or as a staff department without these powers. A general distinction is also made between task-oriented, person-oriented and material-oriented departments (divisional and functional differentiation). Task-oriented departments, such as technology-oriented ones, change according to the task assigned to them and are based on results. Person- oriented departments exclusively serve the needs of their staff , in material-oriented departments the work equipment is in the foreground.


Departments arise in the course of the formation of departments from individual positions, which are sorted and summarized based on certain criteria. Based on an organizational order, organizational management has the following tasks:

  • The organizational analysis forms the starting point of the organizational activity in a reorganization. It is based on the recording of information from the organizational structure that has existed so far , which is then subjected to an actual criticism in order to filter out weak points in the given organization.
  • The organization planning sets in the presence of which organization structures will be up to a certain point in time created and implemented. The organizational planning precedes the practical organizational design and tries to implement goal-oriented strategies in the best possible way .
  • The organizational design includes the implementation of the planned organizational structure, i. H. Realization through active implementation of the organizational ideas. In doing so, the organizational staff uses organizational instruments that are useful for achieving the organizational goals (target).
  • The organizational introduction takes place after a positive organizational decision by the company management, which expresses its approval of the proposals of the organizational staff. The results of the new organizational structure are documented and presented. The organizational control is carried out later by comparing the target and the actual situation.

The organization department is supported in its activities by organization controlling, which performs coordination, planning, control and management tasks.

Advantages and disadvantages


Due to the creation of departments, the coordination between the individual positions improves. The formation of departments creates a hierarchy, which leads to the relief of the instances (management positions), since the management span is reduced. For department members, the complexity of the internal organizational environment is reduced and identification with a manageable task is made possible, which can increase motivation .


The formation of departments, however, also entails certain dysfunctions , because identification with departmental tasks and goals can lead to departmental egoisms and conflicts between departments, which in turn increases the coordination effort of the organization. In combination with operational hierarchical levels (horizontal division), islands are formed (personnel, information, etc.)

economic aspects

The department as an organizational unit is often also the cost center in companies . In particular, the personnel costs and material costs incurred in the department are assigned to you . When budgeting the planned costs , a budget ensures that the future personnel or material costs may only increase by a specified percentage, so that promotions are only possible within this departmental budget . An internal activity allocation ensures that the activities of a department for another by secondary cost allocation be attributed to the contracting section.

See also


  • Erich Frese (Hrsg.): Concise dictionary of the organization. 3. Edition. Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-7910-8027-X .
  • Manfred Schulte-Zurhausen : Organization. 6th edition. Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-8006-4689-0 .
  • Klaus Olfert: Organization . 18th edition. Ludwigshafen 2019, ISBN 978-3-470-51378-2 .
  • Götz Schmidt, Christian Konz: Shaping organization - stable and dynamic corporate structures . 6th edition. Giessen 2019, ISBN 978-3-945997-12-3 .
  • Norbert Thom / Andreas P. Wenger: Organizational Management: Contents, Anchoring and Support , Bern 2003.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jean-Paul Thommen / Ann-Kristin Achleitner, General Business Administration. Comprehensive introduction from a management- oriented point of view , Gabler, 4th edition, p. 739, ISBN 3-409-43016-4
  2. ^ Georg Schreyögg, Organization: Basics of modern organizational design. With case studies , Gabler, 5th edition, p. 103, ISBN 3-8349-0703-0
  3. Peter Preisendörfer, Organizational Sociology : Basics, Theories and Problems , 2011, p. 68