Span of management

 What is Span of Management? Meaning, Types

Table of Contents:-

  • Meaning of Span of Management
  • Definition of Span of Management
  • Organisation Levels and the Span of Management 
  • Problems with Organisational Levels
  • Need for Span of Management
  • Types of Span of Management 

Meaning of Span of Management

In the field of business management, the span of management is also commonly referred to as the “span of control,” “span of supervision,” and “span of authority. It refers to the number of employees directly supervised and managed by a manager. According to this principle, there is a limit to the number of subordinates that a manager can supervise and control. There is no ideal span and it varies from situation to situation. Generally, the span of control is narrow at higher levels of management and wider at lower levels. When determining a manager’s span, it’s important to take various factors into account, including the manager’s skills, the subordinates’ capabilities, and the work’s nature.

The span of control determines the members of managerial levels in an organization. A wide span means fewer levels whereas a narrow span results in many levels of authority. If the manager directly supervises and controls 16 subordinates the span of control is wide and there are only two levels of management. On the other hand, if the manager has four positions of assistant manager instead of directly supervising all the sixteen employees. Each assistant manager in turn supervises and controls four subordinates.

Definition of Span of Management

According to Dimock, “Span of control is the number or range of direct, habitual communication contacts between the Chief Executive of an enterprise and his principal fellow officers”.

According to McFarland, “A span of control is the number of subordinates that an executive supervises”.

Organisation Levels and the Span of Management 

While the purpose of organising is to make human cooperation effective, the reason for the levels of the organisation is the limitation of the span of management. In other words, organisational levels (top, middle, lower management) exist because there is a limit to the number of persons a manager can supervise effectively, even though this limit varies depending on the situation. A broad management span correlates with a limited number of organizational levels, while a narrow span corresponds to numerous levels.

Problems with Organisational Levels

1) In the first place, levels are expensive. With the growth of organizational levels, management dedicates increased resources to both effort and finances. This is due to the addition of more managers, the supporting staff required, the need for coordination among departments, and the expenses associated with providing facilities for the personnel. Accountants refer to such costs as burden, overhead,  or general and administrative, in contrast to so-called direct costs. Real production is accomplished by the engineering, factory, or sales employees, who are, or could logically be accounted for as, “direct labour”. The Levels that are above the “firing line” are predominantly staffed with managers whose costs it would be desirable to eliminate if possible.

2) In the second place, departmental levels complicate communication. An enterprise with many levels has greater difficulty in communicating objectives, plans, and policies downward through the organisation structure than does a firm in which the top manager communicates directly with employees. Omissions and misinterpretations arise as information passes down the line. Levels also complicate communication from the “firing line” to the commanding superiors, which is every bit as necessary as downward communication. Many agree that levels are effective “filters” for information.

3) Finally, many departments and levels complicate planning and control. A plan that is clear and comprehensive at the top level can lose its coordination and clarity when it is divided into smaller segments at lower levels. Managing control becomes increasingly challenging as more levels and managers are introduced. Simultaneously, the growing intricacies in planning and communication further emphasize the significance of this control.

Need for Span of Management

1) Better Supervision and Control

If there is a suitable span of control, then the superior will have a limited number of subordinates under him. This will result in better control and supervision. 

2) Increases Efficiency

A suitable span of control results in better supervision and control. This increases the productivity, efficiency and profitability of the organisation.

3) Increases Goodwill

A suitable span of control improves the efficiency of the organisation. Therefore, they distribute good quality goods and services at reasonable prices to the customers. They also give a high rate of compensation to the shareholders. All this improves the goodwill of the organisation. 

4) Good Professional Relations

If there is a suitable span of control, then the superiors and subordinates will get time to develop close and good professional relations between themselves.

5) Team Spirit and Morale

A suitable span of control creates good relations between superiors and subordinates. This enhances the team spirit and morale of the employees.

6) Good Communication and Coordination

If there is an appropriate span of control, then superiors will get time to communicate with every single subordinate. This will improve communication in the organisation. Good communication results in good coordination. Therefore, a suitable span of control results in good communication and coordination. 

7) Facilitates Quick Action

A suitable span of control results in good professional relations, better communication and coordination. This facilitates prompt action in the organisation.

8) Less Labour Absenteeism and Turnover

A suitable span of control helps to reduce labour absenteeism and turnover in the organisation. 

9) Develop discipline and Mutual Trust

An appropriate span of control helps to develop mutual trust and discipline

10) Superiors can Concentrate on Important Work

If there is a suitable span of control, then the superior will get time to concentrate on important work. However, if the span of control is very broad, then the superior will have to spend most of his time directing and controlling his subordinates.

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Span of Management

Types of Span of Management 

Depending on the number of subordinates that are put under a single manager, the span of control can be broadly classified into the following two categories:

  • 1) Narrow span of control
  • 2) Wide span of control

1) Narrow Span of Control

The narrow span of control involves a hierarchical organisational structure wherein a small number of subordinates report to a single manager. Thus, it leads to a taller organisation structure with many hierarchical levels.

Advantages of Narrow Span

The advantages of a narrow span are as follows:

i) There is a possibility of closer supervision.

ii) Competent individuals can effectively manage those with lower levels of competence.

iii) Monitoring of performance and execution of control is relatively easier.

iv) It facilitates faster communication between the superior and his/her immediate subordinates.

v) It offers an opportunity to motivate people by promoting them to higher levels and offering them lofty job titles.

Disadvantages of Narrow Span

The following are the disadvantages of a narrow span: 

i) It creates many levels of management, which can lead to higher chances of filtering, distortion and delay in communication across different levels.

ii) There can be unnecessary interference as the superiors can get too involved in the subordinates’ work.

iii) It leads to higher operational costs and increased overheads due to many levels.

2) Wide Span of Control

The wide span of control involves a relatively flat organizational structure with fewer hierarchical levels and a good number of subordinates reporting to a single manager. This is shown in the following chart:

Advantages of Wide Span of Control

The advantages of a wide span of control are given as follows:

i) There are lower overheads.

ii) The superiors are forced to delegate because they are responsible for a large number of activities. 

iii) Faster communication across hierarchical levels with lesser distortions is possible because of the relatively flat organisation structure.

Disadvantages of Wide Span of Control

The main disadvantages of a wide span of control are as follows:

i) It requires highly competent managers and subordinates.

ii) There is the probability of overloading superiors as they are assigned a large number of tasks. 

iii) There is a danger of superiors’ loss of control as they are overburdened and have to manage a large number of people.

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