The chain of command is an important concept to build a robust organization structure. It is the unbroken line of authority that ultimately links each individual with the top organizational position through a managerial position at each successive layer in between.
It is an effective business tool to maintain order and assign accountability even in the most casual working environments. A chain of command is established so that everyone knows whom they should report to and what responsibilities are expected at their level. A chain of command enforces responsibility and accountability. It is based on the two principles of Unity of command and Scalar Principle.
Unity of command states that an employee should have one and only one manager or supervisor or reporting authority to whom he is directly accountable to. This is done to ensure that the employee does not receive conflicting demands or priorities from several supervisors at once, placing him in a confused situation.
However, there are exceptions to the chain of command under special circumstances for specific tasks if required. But for the most part organizations to a large extent should adhere to this principle for effective outcomes.
Scalar principle states that there should exist a clear line of authority from the position of ultimate authority at the top to every individual in the organization, linking all the managers at all the levels. It involves a concept called a “gang plank” using which a subordinate may contact a superior or his superior in case of an emergency, defying the hierarchy of control. However, the immediate superiors must be informed about the matter.