A command hierarchy
is a group of people committed to carrying out orders "from the top", that is, of authority
. It is part of a power structure
: usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part of it.
it is seen as the most visible element of a power network
, which itself usually organizes many social networks
. The entire network has social capital
which is mobilized in response to the orders that move through the hierarchy - and closely controlled. This leads to the phrase command and control.
In the military the term CCC
(or "C3") is sometimes used to include "communications" as the "third C": Command, Control and Communications
. Since military situations involve disrupted, hurried, confused or deliberately intercepted and altered communications - see signals warfare
and information warfare
, and also a degree of manipulation of emotion - see psychological warfare
- it is important that communications be closely monitored to ensure that command actually results in control. Possibly the most extensive studies of this were in the Cold War
when both the USA
put great effort into ensuring that their strategic missile
forces were under full control and that communications to them could not be interfered with, disrupted, or manipulated in any way.
Regardless of the degree of control or results achieved, and regardless of how the hierarchy is justified and rationalized, certain aspects of a command hierarchy tend to be similar:
- rank - especially military rank - "who outranks whom" in the power structure
- strict accountability - those who issue orders are responsible for the consequences, not those who carry them out
- strict feedback rules - complaints go up the hierarchy to those with power to deal with them, not down to those who do not have that power
- detailed rules for decision making - what criteria apply and when
- standardized language and terminology -
- some ethics and key beliefs in common, usually enforced as early as recruiting and screening of recruits
However, people of such compatible views often have similar systemic biases
because they are from the same culture. Such problems as groupthink
or willingness to accept one standard of evidence
internal to the group, but require drastically higher evidence from outside, are common. In part to address these problems:
Much modern management science has focused on reducing reliance on command hierarchy especially for information flow, since the cost of communications is now low, and the cost of management mistakes is higher - especially under globalization - than at any point in the past. It is also easier to replace managers, so they have a personal interest in more distributed responsibility and perhaps more consensus decision making.
Ubiquitous command and control posits for military organizations, a generalisation from hierarchies to networks which allows for the use of hierarchies when they are appropriate, and non-hierarchical networks when they are inappropriate. This includes the notion of mission agreement, to support "edge in" as well as "top-down" flow of intent.