Factors affecting Span of Control

Although there are certain limits to the span of control, the tendency in recent years has been to avoid specifying absolute numbers because it has been recognised that the ideal span depends on a number of factors. Some of the more important of these factors are discussed below :


i)      Nature of the work : If the work is simple and repetitive, the span of control can be wider. However, if the work requires close supervision the span of control must be narrow.


ii)    Ability of the manager : Some managers are more capable of supervising large numbers of people than others. Thus for a manager who possesses qualities of leadership, decision-making ability, and communication skill in greater degree the span of control may be wider.


iii)   Efficiency of the organisation :Organisations with efficient working systems and competent personnel can have larger span of control.


iv)   Staff assistants : When staff assistants are employed, contact between supervisors and subordinates can be reduced and the span broadened.


v)     Time available for supervision : The span of control should be narrowed at the higher levels because top managers have less time available for supervision. They have to devote the major part of their work time in planning, organising, directing and controlling.


vi)   Ability of the subordinates : Fresh entrants to jobs take more of a supervisor’s time than trained persons who have acquired experience in the job. Subordinates who have good judgement, initiative, and a sense of obligation seek less guidance from the supervisor.


vii)  Degree of decentralisation : An executive who personally takes many decisions is able to supervise fewer people than an executive who merely provides encouragement and occasional direction.

It should be clear that the size of the span of control is related to numerous variables, and no single limit is likely to apply in all cases. A variety of factors can influence the resulting number of employees comprising the optimum span of control in any particular organisation.

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