Span of Control

Span of Control

Span of control is a period of supervision that reflects the number of employees that can be effectively handled and controlled by a single manager.

What is Wide span of Control?

Wide span of Control is one in which a manager can effectively oversee and control a large group of individuals at a time.

The features of this period are:

  • Low overhead cost of supervision
  • Prompt response from employees
  • improved communication
  • Better supervision
  • Better coordination
  • Suitable for repetitive jobs.

In this type of span of Control, a manager can handle a large number of subordinates effectively and efficiently at a time.

Span of Control

What is Narrow Span of Control?

In this span of Control, tasks and authority are divided among several subordinates and a manager does not supervise and control very large people with them. The manager supervises the number of selected employees at a time according to a narrow span.

Work that requires tight control and supervision, for example, handicrafts, ivory work, etc. that require craftsmanship, narrow narrowing is more helpful.

  • Communication gaps may occur.
  • Messages may be malformed.
  • Specialization work can be achieved.

What are the factors influencing span of Control?

  1. Managerial capabilities:- In those concerns where managers are competent, qualified, and experienced, extensive periods of control are always helpful.
  2. Competence of subordinates:- Where subordinates are capable and competent and their level of understanding is appropriate, subordinates often go to superiors to solve their problems. In such cases, the manager can handle a large number of employees. Hence wide spread is appropriate.
  3. Nature of work:- If the work is of repetitive nature, wider duration of supervision is more helpful. On the other hand, if work requires mental skills or craftsmanship, tight control and supervision are required, in which narrow periods are more helpful.
  4. Delegation of authority:- When work is delegated to the lower level in an efficient and appropriate manner, confusion is reduced and the innate nature of the environment can be maintained. In such cases, extensive periods of control are appropriate and supervisors can manage and control a large number of sub-arrangements at a time.
  5. Degree of Decentralization:- Decentralization is done to gain expertise in which authority is shared by many people and managers at different levels. In such cases, a longer structure is helpful. There are certain concerns where decentralization is done very effectively resulting in direct and personal communication between senior and sub-directors and senior people can easily manage large numbers of subordinates there. In such cases, broad spans again help.

Expanding on the Concept of Span of Control

When we are addressing the period of control or span of Control, let us broaden our understanding to see it in terms of organizational structure levels of hierarchy.

  • Width: Organization structures can be described as wide (with large periods of control) or narrow (with short periods of control).
  • Height: Since there are levels of management, or hierarchy, an organization can be tall (with multiple levels) or flat (with any level).

Flat organizations have a ‘wide’ span of control and tall organizations have a ‘narrow’ span of Control. While there are pros and cons with both tall and flat structures, the company’s structure must be designed to fit the business (customer and market) and fit with workforce potential.

Characteristics of a flat organizational structure (Wide span of Control)

The Pros:

  • Encourages delegation. Managers should be better representatives to handle a large number of subordinates, and provide an opportunity for subordinates to take responsibilities.
  • Improves communication speed and quality.
  • Reduces costs. More effective due to lower cost, thus less managers are required.
  • Helps prevent the workforce from focusing on empowerment, autonomy and self-direction.

The Cons:

  • High managerial workload comes with high span of control.
  • Role confusion is more likely.
  • Can cultivate mistrust of management.

Characteristics of a long organizational structure (narrow span of control)

The Pros:

  • More rapid communication between small teams.
  • Groups are small and easy to control/manage.
  • Has a large degree of specialization and division of labor.
  • More and better opportunities for employee promotion.

The Cons:

  • Interruption in decision making, communication may take a very long time.
  • Silos can develop and prevent cross-functional problem solving.
  • Employees may feel lost and powerless.

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