What Is The Span Of Control In Business Management

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The span of control in organizational structure refers to the number of subordinates or team members that a manager supervises. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of broad and narrow spans of control in the workplace.


What Is the Span of Control?

The span of control or span of management in business management refers to the number of employees that a supervisor supervises. The ideal span of control varies by company; experienced managers may have a broad span of control, which means they are responsible for a larger number of direct reports. The more people supervisors or middle managers supervise, the more decision-making power they have.


Example of Span of Control

The span of control is determined by the supervisory nature and organizational design of each company. A call center, for example, may have broader spans of control: a single manager may oversee fifty to one hundred callers. Callers do the same jobs at the same time, and information technology makes managerial tasks easier by tracking progress, punctuality, and performance.

Other businesses may have a limited range of control. A non-profit, for example, may have a span of control of only five employees if each team member has unique job descriptions, allowing the supervisor's relationship with each employee to be personalized. Companies strive to maintain a manageable span of control in order to increase employee empowerment and reduce the likelihood of burnout in order to improve a manager's job satisfaction.


3 Advantages of a Wide Span of Control

The range of control in a flat organizational structure is broad. A broad range of control has the following benefits:

1. Cost-effectiveness: Fewer managers are needed when there is a wide range of control, which can reduce business costs.

2. Quicker decision-making: Managers can make decisions more quickly when there are fewer levels of management.

3. Freedom: Broad control limits reduce micromanagement and increase employee freedom.


3 Disadvantages of a Wide Span of Control

Companies with a broad range of control have drawbacks. Consider the following drawbacks:

1. Burnout: Having fewer managers in charge of a larger number of people can lead to overwork and burnout.

2. Fewer opportunities for advancement: With fewer managers, employees have less upward mobility.

3. Weak relationships: When managers have too many people to manage, their ability to connect with each employee suffers.


3 Advantages of a Narrow Span of Control

Tall organizational structures have a narrow span of control, which means that a manager supervises fewer people. The following are some of the benefits of this organizational structure:

1. Low manager-to-employee ratio: Managers with a narrow span of control manage smaller groups of people, making managerial tasks easier to complete.

2. Promotional opportunities: A narrow span of control provides employees with numerous opportunities to advance to higher levels.

3. Opportunities for specialization: Organizations with a limited range of control can encourage more critical specialization and experienced employees.


3 Disadvantages of a Narrow Span of Control

The disadvantages of a tall structure in which each manager oversees a large number of employees are as follows:

1. Communication issues: Because there are more managers on the chain of command, a narrow span of control can cause communication issues.

2. Increased costs: Having more company managers means paying higher salaries and benefits.

3. Micromanagement: Managers may engage in micromanagement in a tall organizational structure with a narrow span of control, which may reduce employee satisfaction.

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