Span Of Control In Management: Definition, Examples, Factors

We understand the range of control through this module’s concept, types, examples, benefits, factors, and downsides.

The phrase “span of control” is frequently employed in company management and public administration. Instead of being a principle in and of itself, it offers an empirical generalization grounded in common sense.

Despite attempts by organizational theorists to make it a guiding principle, it only serves as a frame of reference. In terms of classical, neoclassical, or modern administrative theories, this contentious idea is arguably the one that has generated the most discussion.

What Is The Span Of Control?

Managers need to comprehend the resources that are accessible from a human resources perspective.

A manager can completely comprehend who belongs on his team because of the well-defined boundaries of a hierarchical organizational structure. But when jobs are poorly formed, it is feasible for someone to have two or more superiors.

Avoiding this is crucial since it exacerbates hierarchical conflict and makes it more challenging for subordinates to understand the rules.

The manager can organize, plan, and assign tasks to his team members through his work technique by clearly defining the area under his direct supervision.

Then, he may assign each team member the tasks that he believes they can do, based on their credentials, experience, and education. Utilizing metrics, managers may evaluate the performance of their teams and offer suggestions for increasing productivity based on the results.

The definition of the Span of Control

The scope of control can be defined in numerous ways:

The number of individuals that a manager is allowed to supervise is called their “Span of Control,” according to Lois Allen.

A “Span of Control” is the greatest number of subordinates that can be placed under the direction of a single executive who is directly above them, according to Peterson and Plowman.

Elliott Jaques argues that a manager can assess their performance by considering all of their direct reports.

Examples of Span of Control

Each corporation’s organizational structure and management philosophy impact the degree of control. For instance, at a contact center, one manager can be in charge of 50 to 100 calls.

Information technology automates administrative procedures by keeping track of progress, punctuality, and performance while callers execute the same tasks simultaneously.

Other businesses might have access to less control. If each team member has a distinct job description that personalizes the relationship between the supervisor and each employee, a nonprofit, for instance, might only have a span of control of five.

To foster management work satisfaction, businesses try to maintain a manageable range of control, boost employee empowerment, and lower the danger of burnout.

Types Of The Span Of Control

Narrow span of control

There must be fewer workers under the manager’s direction because of the manager’s restricted range of authority.

Taller buildings, thus, have more management layers installed. One of the fundamental components of a restricted span of control is the need for employees to specialize in their profession and for effective monitoring and stricter supervision.

The coordination between the departments’ personnel suffers due to the skewed communication that more levels of management bring about. In the end, this harms response times and overhead expenses.

Perks of narrow span of control:

Augmented conversations

A limited range of control is what makes improving synchronization so important. Since they have fewer subordinates, managers have more opportunities and time to interact with their team members.

If there is regular communication between them, employees might have higher faith in their manager’s capacity to work with them.

When supervisors pay close attention to the behavior of people who are their subordinates, they are more successful in assisting particular employees, boosting morale, and increasing productivity.

Increased levels of contentment among the workforce

Fewer employees under their supervision mean that employees have more one-on-one time with their managers. When there is a narrow range of control, employees may have more opportunities to bring up problems, express their objections, or suggest adjustments.

When managers are in closer contact with the people they are in charge of, they may become aware of concerns that could harm employees’ job happiness and productivity.

This makes it possible for them to deal with issues before they arise and act quickly in response to adjustments in employee attitude or behavior.

Thorough instruction

Having shorter control periods allows managers to focus on the individual training requirements of each employee while also spending more time with their workforce.

This is especially advantageous for employees who have just been hired or are taking on new responsibilities.

When they are responsible for fewer employees, managers are more likely to be accessible to respond to questions and monitor success. By doing this, firms may be able to develop effective employee training programs.

Limitations of narrow span of control:

lowers motivation

If managers over-supervise, it could affect the morale of their workers. A one-on-one approach might be successful in stopping it in some circumstances. However, the ability to carry it out is not possessed by all managers.

Increased cost

To manage fewer staff, businesses require more managers. Thus, the price is higher.

It necessitates more time to communicate.

High-quality communication is possible with a small number of managers. However, moving from the lowest to the highest level could take longer due to the abundance of layers (or vice versa). Top-level decision-making is hence often time-consuming.

A wide span of control

Managers use their extensive range of authority to oversee multiple people at once. Less organizational levels and managerial layers result in a flatter structure due to the wider impact area.

The flatter organizational structure works best when jobs and procedures are standardized. Because the labor is capable and skilled, there isn’t much need for supervision. Performance and productivity have risen as a result of greater employee communication.

Perks of wide span of control :

The freedom of decision-making for employees

The freedom it enables managers and supervisors to assign decision-making authority to subordinates is the primary advantage of a wide span of control.

As a result, the morale of the staff is increased, and they do the work allocated to them efficiently and without the managers’ help.

There aren’t many management tiers.

The percentage of staff members who are directly responsible to management and who have direct reports.

Because numerous employees report to each boss, the organizational structure only requires a few levels of management. A flatter organizational structure is the result of the lower managerial levels.

Job satisfaction

Workers will be better able to take the lead if there is more delegation. Because they are more familiar than management with workplace issues, it might be more successful.

As a result of having more freedom and autonomy, they are more likely to be satisfied with their professions.

Limitations of wide span on control :

Incorrect decision made

Decision-making by employees is enabled by delegation. Despite being authorities in their domains, they cannot make judgment calls. In the end, they might choose poorly.

Loss of command

To exert authority over every subordinate is challenging. Managers could become uneasy as a result of mistakes made by employees.

Individual decisions frequently have a sloppy, unfocused, and disorganized quality. The manager’s workload will increase due to the increasing need for managerial intervention to direct.

Less effective communication

There’s a potential that less effective communication messages will be sent out more swiftly. This saves managers from having to explain things to various people repeatedly. Not everyone has the same understanding of certain concepts.

Span Of Control Factors And Archetypes

Controlled job type

The tasks a manager completes are the most crucial factor in assessing their control and management skills.

When everyone on staff is engaged in the same project, the management or a superior can easily keep track of everyone at once.

A supervisor, for instance, can manage 50 call executives simultaneously without any issues because they are all working on the same responsibilities simultaneously. The maximum number of Ph.D. students a professor may accept is four.

It is hard for the professor to monitor all the students at once because they are each working on a distinct area of research.

The tasks that managers must complete

If management performs multiple administrative chores daily, their authority is constrained. For example, an HR manager must conduct hiring interviews, draft employment contracts, write job descriptions, plan review and development meetings, personally visit with employees, and go through compensation and benefit plans.

The management must put in a lot of effort to complete these tasks. An HR manager can therefore supervise employees that work in a single office.

This means that diverse business units would require a large number of HR managers.

Geography-based distribution

If the executives are dispersed over a large geographic area, it could be difficult for a manager to keep track of every executive employed at each branch of the company.

Each cluster will have its own set of supervisors who will be in charge of the relevant region.

Each manager is able to effectively oversee each employee who has located in a small area, thanks to this.

For example, if a company has sites around the globe, each location may be divided up by country, with country managers hired to oversee the entire personnel.

Workforce competencies

The abilities of the workers under the manager’s direction are just as important in determining the manager’s area of duty as their own.

A manager may only supervise a small number of inexperienced or new employees at once, regardless of his level of skill.

Each employee must receive extensive training from the management in order for them to carry out their duties effectively.

As a result, managing multiple personnel at once becomes challenging. The manager, by contrast, may oversee a group of highly skilled and knowledgeable workers without having to go over every single job with them.

Assuming greater obligations

Having several jobs to supervise will limit a manager’s ability to exercise full control. Or, to put it another way, he will only have a small window of opportunity to supervise his employees.

For example, a professor must plan time for his own research as well as other students’ theoretical lectures in addition to supervising and assisting his Ph.D. students.


There is no single, all-encompassing span of control calculation that can be used by managers, teams, and organizations of all sizes.

You can choose whether a broad or tight range of control will assist managers and staff more depending on a number of variables.

The complete organization benefits from taking into account all the variables and utilizing the technology at its disposal to assist managers in leading people more expertly.

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