Span of control

Span of control
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Span of control has been the subject of much attention of early authors dealing with management. Although there was no consistent view as to the number of persons employed, most authors was in favor of small-range typically not exceeding six direct reports-in order to be able to keep tight control over them. Some authors concluded, however, that situational variable in this case is a management level. They argued that as head of the organization, is promoted to higher management level, he has to do with an increasing number of problems of ambiguous structure. With this assumption they conclude that senior managers should have less span of control than mid-level managers.

Span of control is the number of subordinates under one manager. There are two types:

  • the potential span of control - is the number of subordinates whose work one superior in a given situation could effectively control. Typically, potential span of control varies from a few to a dozen people (average being 7 people),
  • actual span of control - specifies the number of subordinates whose work he actually manages within his organizational unit.

Factors determining span of control

The potential span of control depends on many factors, among others. the nature of the tasks performed by a team, sharing of management duties, the scope of delegation, management style, personal characteristics of superiors and subordinates, equipment, technical means of work, etc. In general, the principle of span of control states that managers should assign an appropriate span of control in specific situation. Once it was thought that this number is approximately 7. However, you can easily see that sometimes span of control is too small and too large, but not necessarily the optimum number is 7, e.g. in research laboratory producing complex products there is relatively small number of subordinates under one manager. In such organization, it is necessary to have easy access to the manager for a longer discussion of the issues. While at the factory for mass production and specialized tasks manager can effectively guide more than 20 employees, if they perform similar tasks, and their performance is easy to measure. Generally speaking, acceptable span of control decreases in:

  • hard-to-predict task requirements,
  • greater freedom of decision granted to subordinates,
  • greater responsibility;,
  • lesser measurability of results,
  • greater task interdependence between subordinates.

To other situational variables are:

  • similarity of tasks,
  • the complexity of duties,
  • the physical proximity of employees,
  • the extent to which there are standard procedures,
  • the degree of sophistication of management information system,
  • strength of the value system in the organization
  • preferred management style.

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