executive department

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A staff unit , or staff for short , is an organizational unit that only indirectly contributes to the solution of a task by supporting one or more instances . This makes it an element of the organizational structure . Staff units can be set up at almost all levels of the hierarchy.

The history of the staff idea can be traced far back into the past. Staff positions were located in the Roman army both at the higher-level command positions set up for warfare and long-term planning and, for example, at the subordinate border guard section commands. In many cases, the commanders of the fort also had to set up independent staff units in crisis situations. Another example is the Roman Catholic Church , whose central church administration in Rome was supported by the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia , i. H. who were available to the Pope as helpers and advisers on special issues. King Gustav Adolf of Sweden introduced staff units for the first time in the Thirty Years' War to relieve the officers of his army from exploration and analysis activities and to keep them free for the actual decision-making task.

Staff units are the central element for expanding the line organization to include staff line organization .

In addition to the assistance and service positions , they are among the supporting positions in the company.

Advantages and disadvantages

Staff should initially relieve management bodies by providing their expert knowledge and providing advice. In theory, their independence enables conceptual, strategic work to be carried out without regard to established organizational processes and structures. Ideally, staffs should not have authority to issue instructions, i.e. they should only act in an advisory capacity and therefore not be allowed to make decisions themselves.

Practice shows that when staff and line work together, a number of conflicts can arise. On the one hand, the influence of staffs on decision-making is not insignificant, as managers are dependent on the experts for information. Along with the theoretical lack of authority to issue instructions goes hand in hand with the factual freedom of responsibility, which means that wrong decisions have no direct impact on the consultant. Furthermore, their functional authority can undermine the position of managers in the organizational hierarchy (danger of the shadow hierarchy).

Types of staff units

Depending on the scope of the task to be performed, a distinction is made between:

Quantitative support:

  • adjutant staff units
  • generalized staff positions or assistant positions ("girls for everything")

Qualitative support:

  • Specialized staff units (are formal aspects of staff types) - staffs with well-founded detailed knowledge in a delimited subject area

Examples of staff units


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Staff - definition in the Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon
  2. ^ Georg Schreyögg: Organization , 5th edition, Gabler, ISBN 978-3-8349-0703-5 , p. 125, focus 3.5 On the history of the staff-line organization
  3. Erich Kosiol: Organization of the company , 2nd, through. Edition, Wiesbaden: Gabler, 1976, p. 138, ISBN 3-409-88454-8 .