The Role of the Assistant: A Modern Business Enigma

by Cyril O’Donnell



This article focuses on a logical differentiation between the staff, line assistant, and assistant-to. This discusses three assistant positions vital to the management structure of a company: the assistant manager, the staff assistant, and the assistant to the manager. Line managers frequently find themselves in a position where they lack either the time or the special skill required to develop all the facts concerning a management issue. For instance, they may require information and recommendations concerning markets, the control system, budgeting, or procedures. Lacking the time or skill required for these projects, they may seek outside assistance from consultants if the assignment is of a short-term nature, or they may employ a full-time specialist in any or all of the areas in question. If the latter decision is made, a staff of one or more persons, each expert in a given area, is created with the authority to advise his superior. As the number of staff experts increases, it soon becomes economical in terms of recruiting, supervision, planning, and coordination to select a chief to manage the staff.

California Management Review

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Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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