Span of Control in Management

The ‘span of control’ is well-known as span of management, span of supervision, span of authority, or span of responsibility. It indicates the number of subordinates who report directly to the managers.

Importance of Span of Control

Determination of an appropriate span of control is important for two reasons:

•    Span of management affects the efficient utilization of managers and the effective performance of their subordinates. Too wide a span may mean that managers are overstraining themselves and that the subordinates are receiving too little guidance or control. Too narrow a span possibly will denote that managers are underutilized and that their subordinates are over controlled.

•    There is a relationship between span of management and organizational structure. A narrow span results in a “Tall” organization with many levels of supervision between top management and the lowest organizational levels. This creates more communication and cost problems. There is also the problem of finding trained managerial personnel. On the other hand, a wide span for the same umber of employees means a “Flat” organization with fewer management levels between top and middle.

Factors Affecting Span of Management

Ability of the Manager

Some managers are more capable than others and can, therefore handle a large number of subordinates. In the planning of an organization, the span of management should be based on the manager of average ability.

Ability of the employees

If the employees are competent and possess the necessary skill and motivation to perform the task assigned, less attention from the manager is required and the larger span of management can be used. On the other hand, if the employees are dissatisfied with their jobs or are incompetent or untrained, close supervision by the manager is needed. This will reduce his span of control.

Type of work

If employees are doing similar jobs, the span of management can be larger. If their jobs are different, a small span may be necessary. Similarly, where the work is machine-paced, the employees will require less supervision.

Well-defined authority and responsibility

If the authority and responsibility of each employee are properly defined, they need not make frequent calls on their supervisors for guidance and instructions. This helps a superior to manage a large number of subordinates.

Some other factors include geographic location, sophisticated information and control system, level of management, economic considerations, planning and standardization of work, communication techniques, and level of personal contact.

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