You might have heard the name of Henri Fayol, famous for propounding fourteen principles of business. Even if you haven’t, we have got you covered here. Fayol is globally recognized for having provided a huge contribution to business theories with his popular ‘Fayolism’, especially the idea of the scalar chain. In this article, we will discuss the scalar chain, what it is, how it works, its pros and cons, and more. So, let’s get started right away.
What does the scalar chain principle say?
The scalar chain establishes an effective channel of open flow of communication in an office environment. It emphasizes the flow of communication to be in the upward or downward directions but not diagonally. Thus, the idea of cross-channel communication is not preferred. If the lower levels of management want to convey information to the superior levels, they will approach the level which is immediately above them. This will go on until the information reaches the management personnel at the ultimate peak of the corporate ladder. However, in case of emergency, the scalar chain can be broken. This happens when a person approaches another individual at the same level of management instead of going through the lengthy process of the scalar chain. This situation of violation of the scalar chain is popularly known as the gangplank.
A quick example to understand its practicality
Visualize a hypothetical structure of an organization, roughly in the shape of a pyramid. At the peak of the pyramid, imagine a management position occupied by person A. He is the ultimate superior management personnel in the organization. There are two sides to this pyramid, the left one trickling down to managers B, C, D, E, and F. The right side of the pyramid consists of managerial positions occupied by G, H, I, J, and K, one after the other. In the general course of business, any communication from the lowest level is passed on gradually to the higher levels and then finally reaches A. The most superior personnel, A, then passes the information to the other side of the pyramid. This may also happen in reverse order. Now, if there is an emergency and E wants to communicate directly with J (horizontally equivalent to E), he will violate the scalar chain. This is referred to as gangplank. However, this is only reserved for operational processes and not for decision-making tasks.
Advantages of following the scalar chain principle
Below are the perks of following the principle of the scalar chain in your office culture.
Distinct communication channels
With clear ways of communication, every individual is well-versed with whom to approach when required. Communication flows in a disciplined system and there is less ambiguity.
Since all the decision-making control is in the hands of the people at the higher levels of management, there is clarity. Think about it, if a particular bit of information is passed from one to another manager, it will cause delays. This results in efficient decision-making without any unnecessary lags.
Less confusion and chaos
An expansion of the first point, the scalar chain establishes the base for well-defined professional relationships at work. The hierarchical structure allows communication to flow properly without any unnecessary chaos and confusion.
Some drawbacks of the scalar chain principle
Everything comes with a set of disadvantages and so does the concept of the scalar chain. Take a look below.
Chances of miscommunication
If a particular piece of information has to be passed amongst numerous people, chances are bright that there will be misinterpretation and miscommunication. If one person fails to understand the communication in its right sense, he will pass it on incorrectly and the result will be a huge mess.
No scope to communicate diagonally
The scalar chain is not flexible and doesn’t allow communicating with other people at the same level of management without permission. There is rigidity and one can only communicate diagonally in case of emergencies.
Just like every business theory, the scalar chain too comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. But it depends on the office culture and the employees about how to accept and practice it. If you are able to see the benefits over the drawbacks, no one can hinder you from spreading a culture of proper communication at work.