More About The Span Of Control

The success of any business is directly proportional to the management style and the division of associations. Be it vertical or horizontal, optimal or direct, every association has its benefits, this directly affects the working of the company and contributes after several aspects like work specialization, chain of command, authority, delegation, a span of control, and centralization-decentralization. 

More About The Span Of Control

One thing amidst every aspect that plays an important role in deciding the success rate of any project is the efficiency with which one manager can handle his or her team. The number of workers who directly report to one manager is called the span of control or the span of management

Let us understand more about the span of control or span of management in the subsequent sections. 

What are direct reports?

Direct report as the word itself suggests is the action of reporting directly to the person responsible for managing the team. In the direct report, an employee is required to report all the necessary happenings of the project to the person above him in the hierarchy. The hierarchy can differ according to the organization and a candidate can be responsible to report either to the manager, supervisor, CEO, or leader. 

The entire work of the business is based on direct reports. Every individual in the company is associated with direct reports to the person who lies above in the hierarchy of the business. The manager or top-level hierarchy is responsible to assign individuals with work, check for progress, and look after team building. 

What is the span of control or management?

The span of control or span of management is the word that is associated with people who directly report to one manager. The number of subordinates in the working environment can differ significantly based on several factors. Any manager or supervisor has a team under him or her to whom they assign work and look after the progress. If a manager works under a wider span of control the subordinates working under him would be many. On the contrary, in a narrow span, the number of subordinates is fewer. 

The number of direct reports or the span of control directly determines the quality of work that is carried out in any organization. It is thus necessary to have an optimum span of control so that all the work of the organization is carried off effectively as well as efficiently. 

How many employees should report directly to one manager? 

One important question that can arise in every individual’s mind is how many people should be assigned to a manager? Well, the question can be tricky to answer. The span of control is often implemented according to the working of the organization, this includes several factors like organization size, efficiency, project size, and so much more. 

Even so, to understand the concept a little better we will look at Graicunas in reaction formula. The formula is generated to have a rough idea about the three types of relationships within an organization; direct, cross, and direct group. 

  • Let ‘n’ be the number of subordinates reporting to a manager. Then the number of direct relationships associated with the manager is given.

direct relationship = n

  • Now, for cross-relationship, that is interactions between subordinates the number is given as:

Cross relationships = n(n-1)

  • The direct group relationships, that is communication among different groups from different departments or teams is given as:

Direct group relationships = n(2^{n}/2-1)

The addition of all three relationships gives the optimal number of direct reports a manager should have. This is just a theoretical way of representing the numbers and they can be varied according to the demand and need of the organization.

Types of the span of control that can be implemented by the organization.

Any organization needs to implement a span of control that best suits their requirement. The span of control is divided into two major categories, almost every business works on either one of them or implements a hybrid of the same. Let us understand both the span of control techniques. 

Narrow span 

A narrow span of control refers to a few numbers of subordinates under one manager. The span of control is usually implemented in small businesses or where the manager is relatively newer to the organization.


  • The distribution allows for a more hierarchical structure contributing to effective communication and task distribution.
  • The relationships among the manager and the employees are relatively closer, which allows for more effective work and proximity to the project.
  • It improves the awareness of the project as a small team can easily communicate and look after the working in an effective manner. 


  • The cost to maintain the entire hierarchy is higher as compared to a wide-span control. 
  • More managers in a project can lead to more confusion this can degrade the quality of the work in case of discrepancies. 


Wide-span of control works the exact opposite of the narrow span of control. The control system here involves a large number of subordinates under a single manager. Wide-span of control is applied in systems where the need for the hierarchy is less, and there are several related factors amidst a group. 


  • The hierarchical structure is lesser as compared to narrow span it allows for more flexible working. 
  • Ideal to remove discrepancies among managers and create a uniform system.
  • The decision-making power lies in the hands of employees this gives them more flexibility to work and make changes. 


  • Communication can be affected due to a larger group of employees. 
  • The burden of the project can sometimes fall on the single manager which can lead to the late distribution of work.

Any organization can work with either of the spans of control techniques. Both the techniques have their advantages and disadvantages, so organizations need to make sure which span of control effectively works for their organization. 

If organizations find it difficult to work with either of the techniques, they can also implement a method wherein they use the hybrid of narrow and wide span of control.

Factors that influence the span of control

The span of control for any organization varies based on different factors. A few major factors are mentioned below. 

Organization size

Organization size is one of the basic factors that determine how the span of control needs to be decided in any organization. For instance, a smaller organization can effectively work with a narrow span as the number of employees is comparatively less. In larger organizations, a narrow span could lead to discrepancies. In such a case, a wide-span control can be more suitable. 

Nature of the organization

The nature of the organization refers to the geographical diversions of the project. A project can be divided into several factors, and the delegations of each factor can be divided into different teams. Depending on whether the tasks are related to each other or not the span can differ widely. 

Skills of the manager

The skills of a manager play another important role in the distribution of tasks. A skilled and experienced manager can easily handle a team consisting of a larger number of employees and can effectively look after the working of the employees. On the other hand, a new or less experienced manager can face some difficulties in the task if the team is larger. This calls for a smaller team for newer managers. 

Skills of workers

If the workers are more skilled and can work individually, they would not require closer supervision. In such a situation, a wider span of control can work effectively. Motivated candidates who take initiative to work and communicate with managers on a timely basis do not require a narrow span of control. 


Interaction among teams plays an important role in determining the success of the organization. The span of control considers interaction and plans a control in such a manner that it effectively handles the communication among departments. 

The similarity of the task

The similarity of tasks within a project requires less supervision from the supervisor. Even if the span of control implemented is wider, managers can easily look after the working of the employees and make effective decisions.

Importance of span of control 

It proves to be essential for any business. To understand how it effectively proves good for the organization, let us look at a few examples.

  • It allows for time management. When a project or any task is distributed among departments it makes the completion of tasks easier. 
  • It allows for easy access to project details and every manager can look after the working of different subordinates effectively.
  • The span of control proliferates communication among people this helps in making any project successful as multiple heads work on the same project to make it perfect. 


The span of control determines the success of any organization. Whether an organization is small or big, it helps to understand the features of the organization and how to effectively carry out communications within the hierarchy of the organization. 

To implement an effective span of control, you can look after the factors that affect the control and what type of control works best. A manager can thus be given responsibilities as per his or her capabilities. It can thus effectively add value to the organization.

More About The Span Of Control

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