Decentralization of Authority – Meaning, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Decentralization of Authority

Decentralization of authority means delegation of authority by top-level management to the subordinate level management on the basis of their responsibilities. It is a philosophy of scientific and systematic delegation of managerial authority to middle and lower-level management.

Decentralization is the important management concept that concerns the distribution of decision-making power to the subordinate level management or to those parties of the organization by whom the organizational work is to be done. This assumes that the top management should keep limited authority and delegate maximum authority to the operating levels. After delegating, the top management has to play the role of supervisor over the operating levels staff.

The best advantage of the decentralization of authority is that it motivates the subordinates, enhances their performance, and ultimately leads to an increase in the productivity of the organization.

Some important definition of decentralization provided by scholars are as follows:

Louis A. Allen – Decentralization is the systematic and consistent delegation of authority to the level where the work is performed.

Koontz and Weihrich – Decentralization is the tendency to disperse the decision making authority in an organized structure.

Dale S. Beach – Decentralization means placing the authority and decision making power as close as possible to the level at which the work is done.

Thus, decentralization is the scientific and systematic delegation of managerial authority to operating levels of staff according to their responsibility.

Delegation of authority is not mandatory but is optional, the top manager may or may not delegate the authority.

In the practical field, it is not possible to delegate absolute authority to the lower level management. The top-level management delegates only substantial power to the lower level management. Every organization has to decide how much authority should be centralized and how much authority should be decentralized. Generally, it depends on the nature and size of the organization and responsibility vested on the lower level management. The top manager has to delegate such a degree of authority to the lower level so that quick decisions and their implementation are possible.

Advantages of Decentralization

Explaining the advantages of decentralization of authority as follows:

Advantage #1 Relief To Top Management

In decentralization, most of the routine managerial responsibilities are delegated to middle and lower-level managers. It minimizes the excessive workload of the top manager. It gives sufficient time to the top manager to concentrate on non-programmed decisions like planning, policymaking, strategy formulation, controlling, etc.

Advantage #2 Facilitates Manager’s Development

Here, appropriate responsibility and authority are delegated to subordinate levels managers. It gives them an opportunity to hone their skill and efficiency so as to get promotions. Therefore, decentralization creates the reserve of talent.

Advantage #3 Enhance Better Decisions

Decentralization delegates the decision making authority to the managers nearest to the operation level. The manager working to the nearest to the operation is in a better position to understand the complexity of the problems. This helps in making a better decision to solve a problem.

Advantage #4 Effective Control

Here, it is convenient to set standards of performance. This helps to compare the actual performance with standard performance more quickly. This helps in taking prompt decisions to correct deviations. This leads to maintaining effective control in the organization.

Advantage #5 High Morale and Motivation to Subordinates

Decentralization is highly motivational as it gives the subordinates the freedom to act and take decisions. This develops among the subordinates a feeling of status and recognition and ultimately a feeling of dedication, commitment, and belongingness. This helps in maintaining the high motivation and morale of the subordinates.

Advantage #6 Facilitates Diversification

The addition of new product lines or expansion of existing lines of business develops complexity in the organization. This also develops challenge to the top manager. The top manager can meet such challenges by delegating authority to his subordinates. He can only play the role of coordinator.

Advantage #7 Environmental Adaptation

A dynamic environment may create problems in different operating units. In decentralization, decision making authority is given to the operating level managers. This facilitates quick and flexible decisions on the basis of the situation.

Disadvantages of Decentralization of Authority

Lets explain the disadvantages of decentralization:

Disadvantage #1 Increase in Expenditure

Decentralization needs to be qualified, competent, and skilled manpower at middle and lower levels. They are to be paid on the basis of their qualification and experience. Besides, there is a possibility of duplication of effort, which unnecessarily may increase the cost of production.

Disadvantage #2 Conflict and Problems in Coordination

In decentralization, the top-level management puts more pressure on departmental managers to increase output and revenue. In such a situation, every department lays more emphasis on their own departmental goals instead of corporate goals. This may rise to interdepartmental conflict and too much fragmentation creates problems in coordination and control.

Disadvantage #3 Unsuitable For Emergency Situation

The lower and middle-level managers are assigned authority only for routine decisions. Whenever they face complex and non-programmed problems they can not make a decision due to limited authority.

Disadvantage #4 Maximizes Risk

The decision making authority is delegated to the subordinate level. If subordinate level managers are unskilled and incapable, they may take wrong decisions, which may increase the risk and result in losses.

Disadvantage #5 Difficulty In Communication

Different departments are formed in various locations and authority and responsibility are assigned to departmental heads. If the network system to communicate information is unclear, communication will be distorted.

Disadvantage #6 Unsuitable For Specialized Services

The concept of decentralization is not applicable in types of services. It is not suitable for the specialized nature of services like accounting, human resource, engineering survey, research, etc.


Decentralization of authority is the dispersion of decision-making authority to operating level staff in other to increase the performance of the organization and make it possible to take prompt decisions.

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