Span of control analysis guide

Span of control analysis: Guide

Almost no organizational question is asked more than ‘what is the ideal span of control?’ Some believe you should have no more than eight layers and no fewer than eight direct reports. The fact is it depends on several factors. This article looks at some of the most commonly asked questions and how you can improve your span of control without losing valuable skills and capabilities.

Everyone knows there is no such thing as the ideal span of control. It differs from organization to organization, from position to position. But by increasing the span of control, you can reduce the number of managers and layers in the organization. This gives, all things remaining equal, significant cost savings and improves communication from the top.

 What is the span of control?

Span of control

A metric known as the span of control helps HR identify the number of workers who report directly to managers. To ascertain how many reports a manager has and whether HR needs to begin a hiring process to either hire more managers or more employees for their team, is an important health and safety tool for HR inside a business.

For instance, there could not be enough workers to finish all the necessary duties if the scope of control is too broad. If it’s too small, certain workers will be overworked and stressed out. By maximizing the team size, HR may help managers strike a balance between having too many and too few direct reports. This might be challenging if the span of management is continuously shifting as a result of shifting company circumstances or staffing levels.

While having a sufficient number of direct reports is important, it is not the only aspect that affects how successfully a manager can manage their team. Another important factor is the nature of the worker-manager relationship. A manager’s ineffective span of control may result in the poor delegation, micromanagement, and misunderstandings. These problems could therefore cause frustration and a lack of productivity among team members and managers alike.

How to calculate the span of control

How to calculate the span of control

Span of control = number of employees/number of managers

Variables considered when calculating the span of control

According to contemporary organizational experts, there should be 15 to 20 subordinates for every supervisor or manager in an organization. However, some professionals with a more conventional orientation think that 5 to 6 subordinates per manager or supervisor are the appropriate number. However, in general, the ideal span of control relies on several variables, including:

  • Organizational size: An organization’s size has a significant impact. Wider control spheres are typical in larger organizations compared to smaller ones.
  • Organizational culture: Organizational culture can have an impact; a looser, more adaptable culture is consistent with a wider organization, whereas a hierarchical culture is consistent with a narrower organization. When making a decision, it’s critical to take the organization’s current and desired cultures into account.
  • Job Nature: Routine, straightforward tasks necessitate less supervision than complex, ill-defined tasks that frequently necessitate decision-making. For jobs requiring less supervision, think wider; for jobs that are more difficult or ambiguous, think narrower.
  • Skills and abilities of the manager: Managers with more experience tend to have broader skill sets than managers with less experience. It’s advisable to additionally take into account how much of the job’s technical requirements fall under the purview of managers and supervisors (non-managerial duties).
  • Employees’ skills and abilities: Less experienced workers need more training, direction, and delegation (tight supervision, narrow), whereas more seasoned workers need less training, direction, and delegation (less supervision, wider).
  • How managers and staff interact: A narrower group has more frequent engagement and monitoring. A broader is characterized by less interaction, such as when managers primarily focus on providing information and assisting with employee concerns. Your managers and supervisors should interact with their staff in a way that is consistent with the level of authority they have over them.

How can you calculate the span of control ratio?

There are many ways to calculate the span of control ratio. The most common way is to divide the number of direct reports by the number of managers. The span of control is a simple calculation that centers around the size of a team and its manager.

The span of control formula:

Span Of Control = Number Of Employees / Number Of Managers

This is the norm for simple organizations with one-level-deep hierarchies. For example, if you work in a company with 50 workers and five managers, your calculations would look like this:

Span of Control (50 / 5) = 10:1

The span of control formula for sub-teams:

This equation provides more granular detail by factoring in sub-teams controlled by team leads or supervisors:

Span Of Control = Number Of Employees / Number Of Team Leaders + Number Of Managers + Number Of Supervisors

These equations calculate the span of control on a single level. In other words, they calculate how many teams (or employees) each manager can effectively supervise. 

Calculating the span across multiple levels in a hierarchy gets more complicated. You would need to consider the span of control of all managers below you, plus the number of employees in each team or department. This would allow you to calculate how many units (or employees) each manager can effectively supervise at any given time.

Note: It might be sufficient to determine the average span of control over the entire organization if your business is small. It will be more advantageous for HR to determine the span at a more detailed level, such as per department, for larger firms (e.g. sales and marketing).

A span of control analysis


Control analysis helps businesses increase productivity. Finding the ideal number of workers who can report directly to management is the goal of the analysis. The “ideal span of control” or “maximum effective span of control” are other names for this. In other words, the number of individuals who should report directly to a manager is determined using the span of control analysis. This figure will differ from company to company and industry to industry.

The typical span of control for a sales force, for instance, might be 10 salespeople per manager. However, an ICT company may require each sales manager to oversee 6–8 business account managers if it provides major B2B enterprises with complicated and customized solutions. A branch manager may be needed by a retail company with several outlets to oversee 6–15 workers.

What to consider when analyzing the span of control

When performing a span of control analysis, there are several things to keep in mind, including:

  • Accurate information – To calculate properly, you need real information on your team Structures and management. This includes being aware of how many workers will directly or indirectly report to a manager, what positions they hold, whether they are spread out among several offices or just one site, etc. The calculation might not be accurate if any details are missing.
  • Size of your company: The size of your company will influence how many employees answer each manager. The likelihood that there will be several layers of management increases with the size of the company.

Designing the spans of control for your organization

Designing span of control

Consider how to maximize the management spans unique to your company to create spans of control that are appropriate for your firm. HR must first comprehend the intricacy of the work performed by managers and their teams to accomplish this. To make it easier to recognize the typical forms of managerial work performed, five managerial archetypes were developed. These consist of:

  • Player/coach
  • Coordinator
  • Coach
  • Supervisor
  • Facilitator

You may determine the proper spans of control for your managers and their direct reports by utilizing and identifying these archetypes throughout your firm. You can construct the ideal span of control by matching the delegation approach to personality type, in addition.

For instance, a boss who feels more at ease with direct reporters than with indirect reporting would assign duties in person. The same is true for managers who need to get more involved in the day-to-day activities of their direct reports.

The span of control calculation can be used to determine how much delegation is required at each organizational level. If the number of employees under your managerial supervision exceeds six, you might want to think about giving each level of employee more responsibility. It might not be in your best interests to provide work to others if your managerial span of control is smaller than three.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that delegating is a continuous process. Lack of experience or understanding may be the cause of your inability to assign jobs efficiently. Or perhaps your staff isn’t yet capable of handling more duties. Before assigning new work, you might think about retraining or coaching your staff. After training, if you’re still having trouble, it could be time to review your job responsibilities and expectations.

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