Hierarchical organization, Biology tutorial

Introduction to Hierarchical organization:

A hierarchical organization is the organizational structure where each and every entity in the organization, apart from one, is subordinates to a single other entity. This arrangement is a form of a hierarchy. In an organization, the hierarchy generally comprises of a singular or group of power at the top by subsequent levels of power underneath them.

This is the dominant mode of organization among big organizations; most of the corporations, governments and organized religions are hierarchical organizations having various levels of management, power or authority. For illustration, the broad, top-level overview of the general organization of the Catholic Church comprises of the Pope, then the Cardinals, then the Archbishops, and so forth.

Members of the hierarchical organizational structures mainly communicate by their instant superior and with their instant subordinates. Structuring organizations in this manner is helpful partly as it can decrease the communication overhead by limiting information flow; this is as well its main limitation

Definition of hierarchical organization:

Common, pyramid look like organization where one person is in charge of the functional area (that is, finance, engineering and marketing) with one or more subordinates handling the sub-functions. In a hierarchical organization (whether political, business, military or religious) higher levels entail greater superiority and domination than the lower ones and the chain of command expands straight from the top to the bottom.


A hierarchy is usually visualized as a pyramid, where the height of the ranking or person portrays their power status and the width of that level shows how many people or business divisions are at that level relative to the whole-the highest ranking people are at the apex, and there are much few of them; the base might comprise thousands of people who have no subordinates. Such hierarchies are usually depicted by a tree or triangle diagram, making an organizational chart or organigram. Those closest the top have more power than those nearby the bottom, and there being fewer people at the top then at the bottom. As an outcome, superiors in a hierarchy usually encompass higher status and command greater rewards than their subordinates.

Common Models:

The whole governments and most companies have similar structures. Usually, the monarch was the pinnacle of the state. In numerous countries, feudalism and manorialism give a formal social structure which established hierarchical links at each and every level of society by the monarch at the top.

In modern post-feudal illustrates the nominal top of the hierarchy still remains the head of state, which might be a president or a constitutional monarch, however in many modern states the powers of the head of state are delegated among various bodies. Beneath the head, there is generally a senate, parliament or congress, which in turn frequently delegates the day-to-day running of the country to a prime minister. In most of the democracies, the people are considered to be the notional top of the hierarchy, over the head of state; in realism, the people's power is limited to voting in elections.

In business, the business owner usually occupied the pinnacle of the organization. In most of the modern large companies, there is now no longer a single dominant shareholder, and the collective power of the business owners is for most purposes delegated to the board of directors, that in turn delegates the day-to-day running of the company to a managing director or CEO. Again, however the shareholders of the company are the nominal top of hierarchy, in reality most of the companies are run at least in part as personal fiefdoms through their management; corporate governance rules are a try to ease this tendency.


Hierarchiology, however a relatively recent discipline, appears to encompass great applicability to the fields of private and public administration. Hierarchiology is the word introduced through Dr. Laurence J. Peter, originator of the Peter Principle explained in his humorous book of the similar name, to signify to the study of hierarchical organizations and the behavior of their members. A few authors condemn this act and recommended alternative options.

Studies of hierarchical organizations:

The organizational development theorist Elliott Jacques recognized a special role for hierarchy in his theory of requisite organization. The iron law of oligarchy, proposed by Robert Michel, explains the inevitable tendency of hierarchical organizations to become oligarchic in their decision making.

Hierarchiology is the word introduced by Dr. Laurence J. Peter, originator of the Peter Principle described in his humorous book of the similar name, to refer to the study of hierarchical organizations and the behavior of their members.

Having formulated the Principle, it had accidentally founded a new science, Hierarchiology, the study of hierarchies. The word hierarchy was originally employed to explain the system of church government by priests graded to the ranks. The contemporary meaning comprises any organization whose members or employees are ordered in order of rank, grade or class. Hierarchiology, however a relatively recent discipline, seems to encompass great applicability to the fields of private and public administration.

Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong

The IRG Solution: hierarchical incompetence and how to overcome it argued that hierarchies were innately incompetent, and were only capable to function due to huge amounts of informal lateral communication fostered through private informal networks.

Criticism and Alternatives:

In the work of diverse theorists like William James (1842-1910), Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Hayden White, significant critiques of hierarchical epistemology are advanced. James notably asserts in his work 'Radical Empiricism' which clear distinctions of kind and category are a constant however unwritten goal of scientific reasoning, so that when they are discovered, success is declared. However when features of the world are organized in a different way, comprising inherent and intractable ambiguities and then scientific questions are frequently considered unresolved. A hesitation to declare success on the discovery of ambiguities leaves hierarchy at an artificial and subjective drawback in the scope of human knowledge. This bias is an artifact of the aesthetic or pedagogical preference for hierarchy, and not essentially an expression of objective observation.

Hierarchies and hierarchical thinking has been criticized through numerous people, comprising Susan McClary and one political philosophy that is vehemently opposed to hierarchical organization: anarchism is usually opposed to the hierarchical organization in any form of human relations. Hierarchy is the most generally proposed alternative to hierarchy and this has been joined with responsible autonomy by Gerard Fairtlough in his work on Triarchy theory.

Among constant innovation in information and communication technologies, the hierarchical authority structures are giving way to greater decision-making latitude for the individuals and more flexible definitions of job actions and this new style of work presents a challenge to existing organizational forms, by some research studies contrasting traditional organizational forms against groups which operate as online communities which are characterized through personal motivation and the satisfaction of making one's own decisions.

Dominance Hierarchies: 

Dominance hierarchy is stated as a form of animal social structure in which a linear or almost linear ranking exists, with each and every animal dominant over such beneath it and submissive to those above it in the hierarchy. Such a hierarchy is widespread amongst the species of fish, birds such as hens and mammals like baboons, wolves and so on. This theory was first recommended through Norwegian scientist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe who studied the passive co-existence of hens in the same group.

Effects of Dominance Hierarchy:

1) The most general effect of dominance hierarchy is that the individuals in higher order encompass a better and preceding access to food. The individuals in lower order obtain the leftover feed after the dominant individual has had its feed.

2) This alpha position as well brings better mating opportunities thus raising the chances of reproductive success and a better offspring. In case of species, where a single female mates by multiple males, the males naturally tend to be more aggressive to get the dominant or alpha position.

3) A significant feature joined to dominance hierarchy is that of territorial benefit in favor of dominant individual. This territorial benefit is significant from the view point of nesting place, mating positions and abundant supply of food. In invertebrates such as ants and bees, this territorial benefit is in the form of a big queen chamber indisputably allotted to the queen bee or queen ant.

4) In situation of weakening or death of a dominant individual, the alpha position is supposed through one of the individuals of the instant next order to the alpha position after a reasonable tussle among competing individuals. Once the dominant individual is chosen, the aggression steadily subsides and the rest of the members turn subservient.

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