Centralization refers to the process in which activities involving planning and decision-making within an organization are concentrated to a specific leader or location. In a centralized organization, the decision-making powers are retained in the head office, and all other offices receive commands from the main office. The executives and specialists who make critical decisions are based in the head office.
Centralization is a method of organizing and management where management and decision-making powers are concentrated in the hands of the top management of the organization. Centralization allows on the one hand an unified decision “from the centre” on the other hand, limits the autonomy of organizational units and may reduce flexibility of the decision.
Centralization is said to be a process where the concentration of decision making is in a few hands. All the important decision and actions at the lower level, all subjects and actions at the lower level are subject to the approval of top management. According to Allen, “Centralization” is the systematic and consistent reservation of authority at central points in the organization. The implication of centralization can be:
- Reservation of decision-making power at top level.
- Reservation of operating authority with the middle level managers.
- Reservation of operation at lower level at the directions of the top level.
Advantages of Centralization
When an organization follows a centralized management structure, it can focus on the fulfillment of its vision with ease. There are clear lines of communication and the senior executive can communicate the organization’s vision to employees and guide them toward the achievement of the vision. In the absence of centralized management, there will be inconsistencies in relaying the message to employees because there are no clear lines of authority. Directing the organization’s vision from the top allows for a smooth implementation of its visions and strategies. The organization’s stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and communities also receive a uniform message.
A clear chain of command
A centralized organization benefits from a clear chain of command because every person within the organization knows who to report to. Junior employees know who to approach whenever they have concerns about the organization. On the other hand, senior executives follow a clear plan of delegating authority to employees who excel in specific functions. The executives also gain the confidence that when they delegate responsibilities to mid-level managers and other employees, there will be no overlap. A clear chain of command is beneficial when the organization needs to execute decisions quickly and in a unified manner.
A centralized organization adheres to standard procedures and methods that guide the organization, which helps reduce office and administrative costs. The main decision-makers are housed at the company’s head office or headquarters, and therefore, there is no need for deploying more departments and equipment to other branches. Also, the organization does not need to incur extra costs to hire specialists for its branches since critical decisions are made at the head office and then communicated to the branches. The clear chain of command reduces duplication of responsibilities that may result in additional costs to the organization.
Quick implementation of decisions
In a centralized organization, decisions are made by a small group of people and then communicated to the lower-level managers. The involvement of only a few people makes the decision-making process more efficient since they can discuss the details of each decision in one meeting. The decisions are then communicated to the lower levels of the organization for implementation. If lower-level managers are involved in the decision-making process, the process will take longer and conflicts will arise. That will make the implementation process lengthy and complicated because some managers may object to the decisions if their input is ignored.
Improved quality of work
The standardized procedures and better supervision in a centralized organization result in improved quality of work. There are supervisors in each department who ensure that the outputs are uniform and of high quality. The use of advanced equipment reduces potential wastage from manual work and also helps guarantee high-quality work. Standardization of work also reduces the replication of tasks that may result in high labor costs.
Disadvantages of Centralization
The organization’s executives are under tremendous pressure to formulate decisions for the organization, and they lack control over the implementation process. The failure of executives to decentralize the decision-making process adds a lot of work to their desks. The executives suffer from a lack of time to supervise the implementation of the decisions. This leads to reluctance on the part of employees. Therefore, the executives may end up making too many decisions that are either poorly implemented or ignored by the employees.
Centralized management resembles a dictatorial form of leadership where employees are only expected to deliver results according to what the top executives assign them. Employees are unable to contribute to the decision-making process of the organization, and they are merely implementers of decisions made at a higher level. When the employees face difficulties in implementing some of the decisions, the executives will not understand because they are only decision-makers and not implementers of the decisions. The result of such actions is a decline in performance because the employees lack the motivation to implement decisions taken by top-level managers without the input of lower-level employees.
Lack of employee loyalty
Employees become loyal to an organization when they are allowed personal initiatives in the work they do. They can introduce their creativity and suggest ways of performing certain tasks. However, in centralization, there is no initiative in work because employees perform tasks conceptualized by top executives. This limits their creativity and loyalty to the organization due to the rigidity of the work.
Delays in work
Centralization results in delays in work as records are sent to and from the head office. Employees rely on the information communicated to them from the top, and there will be a loss in man-hours if there are delays in relaying the records. This means that the employees will be less productive if they need to wait long periods to get guidance on their next projects.