Span Of Control

The term ‘span of control’ is also known as ‘span of supervision’ or ‘span of authority’. Simply stated it refers to the number of individuals a manager can effectively supervise. Thus, it is expected that the span of control, that is, the number of subordinates directly reporting to a superior should be limited so as to make supervision and control effective. This is because executives have limited time and ability.

It is sometimes suggested that the span of control should neither be too wide nor too narrow. In other words, the number of subordinates should not be too large or too small. According to some experts, the ideal span is four at higher levels and eight to twelve at lower levels. But the number of subordinates cannot be easily determined because the nature of jobs and capacity of individuals vary from one organisation to another. Moreover, the actual span of supervision affects the organisation in different ways. A wide span results in fewer levels of supervision and facilitates communication. But it permits only general supervision due to the limited availability of time. Narrow span, on the other hand, requires multiple levels of supervision and hence longer time for communication. It is more ex pensive and complicates the process of communication. A narrow span, however enables managers to exercise close supervision and control.

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