DEFINITION OF ‘SEPARATION OF POWERS’
An organizational structure in which responsibilities, authorities, and powers are divided between groups rather than centrally held. Separation of powers is most closely associated with political systems, in which the government is divided into parts and provided with different sets of responsibilities. For example, in the United States the government is separated into the judicial, legislative, and executive branches, with the powers afforded to each branch defined in the Constitution.
INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS ‘SEPARATION OF POWERS’
The number of groups created by a separation of powers arrangement vary across political systems, and are often based on the complexities associated with managing the functions of government. The most well-known systems are the tripartite system found in the United States and the United Kingdom. This type of system involves the use of three branches of government, each with distinct powers. In the United States, a number of state governments follow a bipartite system, which assigns powers to two separate groups.
While separation of powers is most closely associated with politics, this type of system can also be used in other instances. For example, a corporation may be comprised of a chief executive officer (CEO), board of directors, management teams, and non-management professionals. Each group has a different set of responsibilities, which allows a group to focus on efficiently and effectively undertaking its duties without also having to focus on doing the work of other groups. This type of approach works best in larger organizations, though smaller businesses may also separate powers.
A principle related to the separation of powers is checks-and-balances, a system in which the powers of one branch is limited by the powers of another branch. For example, in the United States, the executive branch nominates judges, the legislative branch can confirm the nominations, and the judicial branch can declare laws passed by the legislature unconstitutional.