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SPAN OF CONTROL

According to Louis Allen, - "Span of control refers to the number of people that a
manager can supervise."
Span of control means the number of subordinates whom a superior (manager or
administrator) can effectively supervise. Every superior can supervise a limited
number of subordinates (employees). Therefore, every superior should be assigned
or given an authority to handle only few subordinates.
Span's literary meaning says, it is the distance between the tip of a thumb and
small finger when palm of hand is fully stretched out. However, in terms
of management and administration, it means the maximum extend or the number of
people that can be reached by.
Control in literary means an ability to instruct, check, adjust or manipulate
something as per once's preferred requirement, choice or expectation. However, in
terms of management and administration, it refers to an authoritative power to
direct, order or restrain.
What is the Span of Control?
The number of people who report to one manager in a hierarchy
The more people under the control of one manager - the wider the span of
control
Less means a narrower span of control
An example of a narrow span of control is shown in the diagram below:

The advantages of a narrow span of control are:


A narrow span of control allows a manager to communicate quickly with the
employees under them and control them more easily
Feedback of ideas from the workers will be more effective
It requires a higher level of management skill to control a greater number of
employees, so there is less management skill required.
Disadvantages of narrow span of management
It tends to increases the total number of organizational levels. This makes it
difficult for manages at higher levels to keep in touch with ground realities at
operating level.
It increases the total number of employees in the organization. This increases
cost of employees.
It creates problem of coordination between different managers and
organizational units.
An example of a wide span of control is shown in the diagram below:

The advantages of wide span of control are:


There are less layers of management to pass a message through, so the
message reaches more employees faster
It costs less money to run a wider span of control because a business does
not need to employ as many managers.
Disadvantages of wide span of control are:
Fewer promotional opportunities so can be de-motivating.
Harder for manager to supervise and co-ordinate the exact work of
subordinates and ensure they are working towards same common goal.
Increase the risk of wrong decision being made as subordinates may be less
well trained or lack experience
An appropriate span of control gives the following benefits to the
organization.
1. Better supervision and control-: If there is an appropriate span of control, then the superior
will have a limited number of subordinates under him. This will result in better supervision and
control.
2. Increases efficiency-: An appropriate span of control results in better supervision and control.
This increases the efficiency, productivity and profitability of the organization.
3. Increases goodwill-: An appropriate span of control increases the efficiency of the
organization. Therefore, they distribute good quality goods and services at fair prices to the
customers. They also give high rate of dividend to the shareholders. All this increases the
goodwill of the organization.

4. Good professional relations-: If there is an appropriate 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-: An appropriate span of control creates good relations between
superiors and subordinates. This improves the team spirit and morale of the employees.
6. Good communication and co-ordination-: If there is an appropriate span of control, then
superiors will get time to communicate with every single subordinate. This will improve the
communication in the organization. Good communication results in good co-ordination.
Therefore, an appropriate span of control results in good communication and co-ordination.
7. Facilitates quick action-: An appropriate span of control results in good professional relations,
better communication and co-ordination. This facilitates quick action in the organization.
8. Less labour absenteeism and turnover-: An appropriate span of control helps to decrease
the labour absenteeism and turnover in the organization.
9. Develops discipline and mutual trust-: An appropriate span of control helps to develop
discipline and mutual trust.
10. Superiors can concentrate on important work-: If there is an appropriate span of control,
then the superior will get time to concentrate on important work. However, if the span of
control is very wide, then the superior will have to spend most of his time on supervising and
controlling his subordinates.

According to V.A. Graicunas, as the number of subordinates increases


arithmetically (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.) the number of relationships which the
superior has to control also increases almost geometrically (like 1, 6, 18, 44,
100, 244, etc.). Therefore, a superior can only control a limited number of
subordinates, and anything beyond this limit is very hard to control.