Factors affecting Span of Control

Meaning of Span of Control

Span of control is a business management term which relates to number of subordinates working under the supervision of manager. It simply means the total number of people that a manager can control or manage under himself. Span of control is also termed as span of management, span of supervision or span of responsibility.

Types of Span of Control

It is of 2 types that is a narrow span of control and wide span of control. The larger the number of subordinates that works under the manager’s supervision, then broader will be his span of control. A nature of work greatly influences the number of subordinates managed by a supervisor. In case of complex work structure, he may be managing only 4-5 subordinates whereas if work is of repetitive and fixed nature, then this number of subordinates may even go up to 15-20 candidates. Every organization need to decide an optimum span of management in order to derive a better efficiency. 

Factors Affecting Span of Control

Various key factors which influence the span of control are as discussed in points below: –

Capability of superiors

The abilities and capabilities of supervisors influence their degree of controlling people working under them. Different people have distinct abilities in terms of communication, leadership, administrative skills, judging, listening, guiding, inspiring, physical vigour etc. An individual having more of these abilities can manage a greater number of subordinates in comparison to one having lesser abilities.  

Competencies of subordinates

If subordinates working under the supervisors are skilled, knowledgeable, trained, competent and efficient then their management become easy. A manager can have wider span of management in case of experienced subordinates as compared to inexperienced and untrained ones. People who are expert in their job roles require less guidance and supervision from their executive.

Nature of work

The nature of work greatly influences the span of supervision of executives in an organization. All work involving routine, repetitive and standardized task required less supervision by managers. In such cases, the supervisor can manage a large of subordinates under him. Whereas, all work roles at higher level of management that involves several complexities and variety of tasks require effective supervision from time to time. Here, the number of people that a manager will be managing are limited to lesser number.  

Degree of centralization and decentralization

In case of centralization, a manager take majority of decisions by himself and do not delegate enough authority to the subordinates for taking decisions. Here, he would have a narrow span of control. Whereas under case of decentralization, the managers take very few decisions and authorize their subordinates to take decisions and undertake well-defined tasks. Therefore, a manager can supervise a large of peoples here and would have a wider span of management.

Quality of planning

Span of management is wider in case if all plans and polices are well defined and easily understandable. When plans and responsibilities are clear then the subordinates need not to go to their supervisors repeatedly for consulting. They do not require much explanation, instructions and guidance from their supervisors which saves their time and make management task easier for them. On the other hand, if plans are ineffective and not well-defined then they impose limit on span of management. 

Degree of physical dispersion

A supervisor can manage a large number of people if all subordinates are located at same place and in his direct supervision. Management of peoples which are physically dispersed and located at far places becomes a difficult task and span of management becomes narrow.

Communication techniques

The effectiveness of communication system also influenced the span of management. A large number of peoples can be managed by supervisor if communication system is effective where information can be transmitted easily among different peoples. Whereas in case of faulty communication system, burden on manager get increase and will reduces his span of control.