The concept of span of control.

  

Date Posted: 8/7/2018 5:56:50 AM

Posted By: Faimus  Membership Level: Silver  Total Points: 962


In some organisations, you may find a number of subordinates reporting to a single supervisor. This is what is referred to as span of control and is described as the number of subordinates reporting to a single superior. It can also be defined as the number of subordinates that can be effectively managed by a single superior.

There are two different types of span of control: the wide and narrow span. A wide span is a situation where several subordinates report to a single superior while a narrow span is a situation where a few subordinates report to a single superior. The span of control is determined by various factors. These may either be internal or external. Some of these factors are explained below.

Ability of the superior: leadership characteristics of the superior such as the ability to judge , inspire, listen, communicate and understand, leadership styles and philosophies differ from one individual to another. An individual possessing better capabilities, vast knowledge and experience to handle departmental or organisational issues is considered to have better abilities. A superior with better abilities therefore has a wider span while another with lesser abilities has a narrow span.

Ability of the subordinate: Well trained and competent subordinates with vast knowledge and several years of experience in their area of specialization can work effectively and efficiently with minimal supervision. Such subordinates will thus demand minimal time and attention from the supervisor hence the superior managing them can have a wider span of control. On the other hand, unskilled subordinates will require greater supervision and will thus demand a lot of the superior’s time and attention to perform their tasks satisfactorily. The superior in this case will have a narrow span of control.

Level of decentralization: Decentralisation refers to a situation where authority had been delegated

to subordinates. With the required level of authority a competent subordinate will be able to undertake a well defined task delegated by the superior. With decentralisation of authority, a superior can therefore delegate tasks and hence a wider span of control. However, in a situation where an organisation has a centralized system, the superior may not be able to delegate the required amount of authority to perform a given task. The subordinate to whom the task is delegated will take an unproportioned amount of the superior’s time and attention in guiding and controlling their actions and thus the superior will have a narrow span.

Nature of work: In a situation where work involved repetitive, routine and standardised operations, the subordinates require minimal supervision and thus the superior has a wider span. This is normally the case in the low levels of organizations and thus the low level managers have wider spans of control. In the higher level of organisations, work involves complex operations. The number of subordinates who can be efficiently managed at these levels is small and thus the managers have narrow spans.

Control techniques: The philosophy of the superior is very key in determining their span of control. Superiors who rely on daily or weekly reports and technology such as the use of CCTV (closed- circuit television) cameras have wider spans of control as opposed to those who practise close supervision of all work operations under their jurisdiction.

Distance between the subordinates to be supervised. The subordinates under a single superior may be located within a single department, different departments or different branches of the same organisation. In a situation where the subordinates are found in the same department or within a single branch of the organisation then the superior can have a wider span since they can easily access all the subordinates they are accountable for. However , in a situation where the subordinates are found in different branches of the same organisation, the superior has a narrow span. This is because movement from one branch of the organisation to another will put a strain on the time available for supervision.

Communication facilities: With faulty communication facilities, the superior will have a narrow span of control. This is because lack of proper communication will put a strain on the time of the superior and reduce effectiveness in giving the required guidelines to subordinates to perform their work satisfactorily. On the other hand, an effective system of communication will enable a superior to have a wider span of control. This is because there will be ease in passing information to the subordinates.

Time available for supervision: The time available for supervision will also affect the span of control. When the superior has a lot of time for supervision then they will have a wider span of control. On the other hand, less time available for supervision will limit the span of control of a given superior.


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