Factors determining span of control in an organization

What are the factors that determine span of control?

Factors determining span of control in an organization
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Considering the span of management is important to maintain effective functioning state of an organization. This article discusses about the factors that help to determine the span of management.

Span of control is the term now used more commonly in business management, particularly human resource management. Span of control refers to the number of subordinates a supervisor has. In an organizational context, the span of control or management represents superior subordinate relationship which also refers to the number of people directed or managed effectively by a single executive or a manager or supervisor.

In any business organization subordinates are workers who are directed and controlled by a manager. The span of control or management is the number of people who report to one manager in a hierarchy. The more people report to the manager, the wider will be the span of control and vice versa. There is no exact limit of span of control. However, the number of subordinates cannot be determined exactly, because the nature of work and the capacity of individuals vary from one organization to another.

It may thus be suggested that a span of control should neither be too wide nor should it be too narrow. It is appropriate to mention that no supervisor can supervise directly more than five or six subordinates at a time. So, a suitable span of control will depend upon a number of factors.

One of the most important aspects to be considered is that the time limits that are imposed on human side by factors outside the control can greatly influence the span of management. One has to have a limited period of time within which something must be done or completed. In addition, individuals differ from each other based on their energy level. A person may have much to do, but limited energy with which to do. So, the limited energy with which one can do things will also affect span of control. Although things can be organized in order to make it easier to concentrate, it is only possible for a limited number of activities. It is likely that one can get distracted. Limiting distractions allows one to get into the flow of work, whereas distractions can result in missing out on important information or making errors. It thus influences the span of management. Above and beyond, since knowledge of a person is limited to certain areas, it may be factor to determine the span of control as well.

It is the role of a manager to integrate the activities of individuals ensuring that they are being done in a way as it should be. In doing so, the personal attributes or qualities such as, temper, outlook, mood and his influence play an important role in determining that the number of subordinates can be managed by him effectively. As regards the capacity and skills of the subordinates it may be said that if they are skilled and capable, they do not require much supervision and they can perform their related tasks independently. If it is not so, the span needs to be restricted. Besides the span is obviously limited if the plans are not clearly defined and the responsibilities are not delineated properly.

Span of control in management has implications for work flow and influences directly the number of subordinates who are assigned to be working under a manager or a supervisor. Thus, a proper span for a manager or a supervisor is important to design the organizational structure and to set direction and to exercise control effectively and efficiently.


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