What is the Span of control?
The term “span of control” describes how many subordinates a manager or supervisor in an organization can effectively and efficiently supervise. Typically, it is either narrow or wide, resulting in an organizational structure that is either flatter or more hierarchical. Each type has advantages and cons that come with it.
The span of control can be specified in a variety of ways. By “number and range of direct, habitual communication interactions between an enterprise’s top executive and his key colleague executives,” Dimock means “span of control.”
According to Lois Allen, “Span of control” refers to the number of people a manager may be in charge of. According to Peterson and Plowman, “Span of control” refers to the highest number of subordinates that can be placed under the jurisdiction of one executive who is immediately superior to them.
Elliott Jaques contends that a manager may have as many direct reports as he desires to evaluate employee performance. The term “span of control” is used by Haimann and Scott to describe the number of subordinates that can be effectively watched and controlled.
Ideal Span of control
The range of control has an impact on both how effective managers use their resources and how well their employees perform. The number of subordinates that should be less expensive and give management more strength is referred to as the ideal span
Adopting organizational structures that support another firm’s strategy may result in an organization gaining unfavorable inefficiencies. Based on external comparisons, the top-down assignment of the managerial span of control is missing the specificity necessary to create something appropriate for the environment and strategy of each organization. It does not consider how each team and department completes its task to meet its overall performance objectives.
Before choosing the best span of control for your company, it’s critical to consider the following elements.
The executive’s capacity and skills
The qualities and skills that distinguish one person from another include leadership, managerial skills, the capacity for communication, judgment, listening, direction, and inspiration, among others. In comparison to someone with lower talents, someone with higher abilities may efficiently manage a large number of subordinates.
Competence and Training of Subordinates
Competent and trained subordinates require less supervision, and as a result, the supervisor may have a wider range of control over them than inexperienced and untrained subordinates who need more control.
Kind of Work
Another aspect influencing the span of control is the nature and significance of the work that needs to be supervised. The supervisor’s attention and effort will not be required for the work that entails repetitive, routine, unskilled, and standardized procedures. As a result, the managers at the lower echelons of an organization can oversee the work of a huge number of subordinates. However, at higher levels of management, the task is more complicated and diverse, and as a result, the number of subordinates that can be handled efficiently should be restricted to a smaller number.
Time Available for Supervision
A person’s ability to manage and control a large group of people is likewise constrained by the amount of time he has available to do so. The span of control would typically be limited at the upper levels of management since senior managers must devote the majority of their time to planning, organizing, leading, and regulating, leaving less time for supervision. This range would be wider at lower levels of management because they have less time to dedicate to such other things.
Degree of decentralization and scope of delegation – If a manager demonstrates clear delegation of authority to carry out a specific task, a well-trained subordinate can accomplish it with the minimum amount of supervision. The span might therefore be large. Instead, if the subordinate’s mission is not one he can do, it is not clearly defined, or he lacks the authority to carry it out successfully, he will either be unable to do so or will require a disproportionate amount of the manager’s time to oversee and direct his efforts.
Effectiveness of Communication System – The efficiency of the organization’s communication system has an impact on the duration of supervision as well. Poor communication consumes a lot of the manager’s time and limits their ability to exert control. On the other hand, a greater number of administrative levels will be desired if the communication system is successful since information can be conveyed easily. Additionally, if a manager can communicate well, a wide range is conceivable.
Control Mechanism – The range of control in an organization is also influenced by the control techniques that are used. A supervisor can practice “management by exception” thanks to objective standards because they quickly tell them of deviations or variances. While control by objective standards and reports favors a larger span, control through human supervision favors a narrower span.
Types of Span of control
There are two different types of management spans: wider spans and narrower spans. A flat organization results from a wider management span, whereas a tall organization structure results from a narrower management span. The contradiction between the benefits of a tall organization and those of a flat one cannot be resolved by the span of management principles alone.
The wider span of control
Companies with flat organizational structures frequently have a wide breadth of control. This is because there are fewer layers between the top and bottom levels. The chain of command is therefore short.
For instance, a business might have two levels of power, the manager serving as the division head and only the director. The manager is in charge of six workers. Every worker will be accountable to the manager, who will then report to the director.
Characteristics of a wider span control range
- greater accountability. Many employees are managed by one manager.
- brief in structure. There are various layers to the organizational structure.
- increased workload Many employees must be under the management of managers.
- additional delegates Managers might use delegation to lighten the load.
- Decentralized power. Decision-making by subordinates is trusted by managers.
- a lower degree of authority A short chain of command is used in decision-making to reach the top level more rapidly.
- common in start-up businesses. They have a small organization because they just have a few staff.
Advantages of a wider span of control
Quicker coordination and communication. Because there are fewer layers involved, information travels faster from the lowest level to the highest level (or vice versa). It enables prompt decision-making and coordination.
Increased motivation Less critical decision-making is delegated to employees by managers. Because they are more involved in making decisions about their work, employees may experience higher levels of job satisfaction and motivation.
Flexibility at work Through delegating, managers lessen their need to monitor their employees. They also have a lot of faith in their subordinates and count on them to behave in a certain way.
Lower prices In charge of more individuals are managers. Therefore, organizations require fewer managers and layers in the organizational structure.
Additional delegates The manager is in charge of more subordinates, and the control area is larger. It makes their work more difficult. On the other hand, it should motivate managers to assign additional work because it is hard for them to complete all the crucial tasks alone.
Satisfaction at work. Employees can make more decisions on their own with increasing delegation. Because they are more familiar than the manager with the issues that arise at work, it might be more successful. They have the freedom to manage their working lives in conjunction with greater autonomy, which increases job happiness.
A wide span of control drawbacks
Reduction in production. Many subordinates are managed by managers, but not all managers are qualified to do so. That may increase their burden and reduce their productivity
Unwise choice. Employees can make decisions thanks to delegation. Even if they are authorities in their domains, they might not make wise decisions. They might ultimately decide incorrectly.
Losing command The management of all the subordinates is challenging. Employee missteps can make supervisors anxious. Individual judgments also frequently have a random and unfocused nature and may not be adequately coordinated. Finally, it necessitates additional managerial guidance, which adds to the manager’s workload.
Lower communication efficiency. Although communication messages could reach more quickly, they might also be of low quality. This is so that managers can explain it to a large number of individuals. And not everyone comprehends; each person may interpret things differently.
Narrow span of control
Under a narrow span of control, managers have fewer subordinates to supervise. This is common in tall structure companies involving more levels or layers.
For example, a company has three levels of authority: directors, division heads, and managers. The division head oversees three managers. Meanwhile, the manager is responsible for two subordinates.
Characteristics of narrow span of control
- Less responsibility. One manager manages a few subordinates.
- Long structure. The organizational structure involves many layers.
- Less workload. Managers have to supervise and manage a few subordinates, leading to tight control.
- Fewer delegates. Managers may try to make decisions independently and delegate less to employees.
- Centralized authority. Decisions are concentrated at higher levels, where the higher the level, the higher the decision-making power.
- Longer levels of authority. Decision-making involves a long chain of command, so it can be slower to get to the top level or vice versa.
- Common in established companies. They have many employees, and therefore the size of their organization is large.
Advantages of narrow span of control
More control. Managers can supervise better because they supervise fewer subordinates. In addition, to reduce tighter supervision, they may use a more personal approach, which is more likely to be done with fewer subordinates.
Better productivity. The manager’s workload is less due to supervising fewer subordinates. In addition, decision-making is distributed over more layers. That should lead to higher performance and productivity.
Better decision. Managers take a more dominant role in making decisions than employees. Thus, they can make better, more coordinated decisions than delegating them to employees.
More effective communication. Fewer subordinates allow for higher quality communication and feedback. As a result, managers can more effectively convey messages to or accommodate their aspirations.
Disadvantages of narrow span of control
Lowers morale. If managers supervise too closely, it can demoralize employees. A personal approach may be effective in some cases to prevent that. But, not all managers have the quality to do it.
Greater cost. Companies need more managers to supervise fewer employees. Thus, it consumes a larger cost.
Slower communication and coordination. Communication quality may be good under a narrow span of control. But, it can take more time to get from the lowest to the top level (or vice versa) because it has to go through many layers. As a result, decision-making at the top level tends to be slow.