Span of Control: An Overview


Span of Control: An Overview

We are going to consideration is on span of control. In every organization, it must be decided how many subordinates that should report to a superior officer. We are going to see how the issue of allocating subordinates to superior officers gives rise to different structures in an organization.

The differences because of the differences in levels. And the differences in levels occur because of the differences in the number of subordinates that the manager can handle. We will examine the structures carefully, while doing this, it will enable us in turn to determine the advantages and the disadvantages as well as that are associated with each of the structures.


Explanation of Span of Control

Span of control is simply the desirable member of subordinates that reports to the manager. It is often said at than at the top level of candidates of about four to weight subordinate at a lower level. We must point out that there is hard and fast rule concerning the desirable number that should report to a manager in an organization. What is desirable in one organization may not work well in another organization. This means that span of control is a matter of trial by error. Also, span of control varies from one organization to another.

Narrow span of Control

This refers to a situation where few subordinates reports to a manager. Due to the number, many levels of position are created. Because many levels are created, the structure of the organization that will result it is Tall-Shaped one.

Remember that what gives rise to the tall shaped structure is the narrow span, that is, few subordinates reporting to superior officers.

There are advantages as well as disadvantages associated with organizations having tall shaped structure. We will consider them

Advantages of Tall-shaped Structure

1. Close Supervision

This is one advantages of tall shaped structure. There is close supervision which is necessary in a situation where a subordinate is new on the job and can easily make mistakes that can be fatal to the organization. By closing supervising him because of the few number of them reporting to a manager, the incidence of mistakes is minimized. Close supervision is also necessary where the work of subordinate is of sensitive nature or where the work of the subordinate is such that if there is an error of judgment it could be dangerous to his life and the effect could spread to the entire organization.

2. Close Control

Close control demands that the manager looks at the work of the subordinate and companies that output again the standard that has been set. This is to detect if the subordinate is doing the right thing. If he does, it means the standard is being achieved. But if a different picture results, this means that there is a negative deviation, that is, the subordinate has deviated from the standard set.

A controlling measure should be quickly put in place so as to correct the situation. The ability and urge to detect the deviation and putting the corrective measure is as a result of close supervision. The mistake has been detected in time before creating a damaged effect.

3. Fast Communication between the Subordinate and Superior

When to the smallness in number, the subordinates can easily interact with their manager. Whatever the firm of communication, either by oral or written, the level of interaction is less cumbersome, time saving, and satisfactory. A problem can quickly be brought in promptly investigated, analyzed and solution suggested and effected.

4. Quick Decision Making

The manager and his subordinates can spend less time in taking decision. This is due to few persons involved. Unnecessary arguments are reduced and opinions needed to arrive at a decision are from the few persons involved. In the same venue, decisions can easily be evaluated in the light of the organization’s objectives.

Disadvantages of Tall-shaped Structure

1. Too much involvement in subordinates Job

One disadvantage of a tall shaped structure is that superior tends to get too involved in the work of the subordinates. This sometimes gets into the nerves of the subordinates resulting in cold behaviours. Sometimes, the subordinates argue that they are not allowed to exercise initiative and this reduces their level of creativity. This is also the feeling of less job satisfaction because of the closeness of supervision. The subordinate is too proud of the outcome of the job because he finds it difficult to separate his own efforts which he was to admire and be proud of and the efforts of the superior officer.

2. Too Many Levels

The tendency to divide activities and arising the activities to the individuals and few individuals to a manager result in tall shaped structure with too many levels. This creates problem of communication from the lowest level in the organization to the top levels. This is because information from below has to pass through the various levels. In the process, some piece of the information will be distorted

 3 High Costs

Too many levels again create high costs. This is because the levels and the positions arising from them must be filled with personnel who will draw their salaries and wages. Officers need to be provided and these officers must be furnished and equipped. All these and more are what the accountants call overhead costs.


Wide Span of Control

On the other hand, when many subordinates report to a manager, the result is fewer levels of positives and a flat shaped organization.  There are again advantages and disadvantages associated with this type of structure.


Advantages of Flat-Shaped Structure

1. Superiors are forced to delegate

In a flat-shaped structured, superior officers must delegate. This means there is a limit to the activities a manager has to perform, and of necessity he has to give excess activities to the subordinates with the accompanying authority. Also, by the nature of the job such as consultancy will force the manager to always have as many subordinates as possible with whom he consults with regularly.

2. Clear Policies must be made

Every member of the organization should be able to know what the policy of the enterprise is, what objective(s) that has emanated from the policy and so on. This is important because the manager has no time to be explaining to the many subordinates what the organization policy is and the objectives necessary to implement the policy are.

3. Subordinates must be carefully selected

This is important and is advantageous. It ensures good quality workforce. They should understand what is to be done, how to do it and when to do it without the prompting of the manager. In other words, in the absence of the manner for whatever reason the work must go on smoothly.

4. Good Quality Decisions

Due to the large number of subordinates that is usually participated in decision making, the quality of such decision is high. Many subordinates are involved and all shades of opinion considered before the final decision.


Disadvantages of Flat-shaped Structure

There are also a set of disadvantages associated with tall-shaped structure. The major ones are the following:

1. Overloaded superiors can become bottlenecks

When superiors are loaded with many subordinates to supervise, to take a decision demands a great deal of time. Decisions can further be delayed if the superior does not know the techniques of organizing and managing meetings.

2. Danger of supervisor’s loss of control

Some superiors may lose control of their subordinates. Instead to checking, monitoring and evaluating subordinates actions to ensure compliance with organization’s objectives, due to loss of control, the subordinates do thing they feel like performing.

3. Require exceptional quality of Mangers

Wide span of control demands that the manager should possess those exceptional qualities that will make them to handle those sub-ordinates under them. In practice, however, it is often found out that the quality is not there.


Conditions for Span of Control

Necessary conditions for appropriate span of control include the following:

1. The capacity and skill of the manager

2. The type of direction and control exercised on subordinates

3. The available time the supervisor can spend on the job

4. The type of relationship existing between the manager and the subordinates

5. The overall size of the organization

6. The level of difficulty or ease of operation of machines.

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