What is Span of Control?

Definition: A span of control is a concept that describes the number of people that are managed by someone. It is a chain of command notion where the number of subordinates are properly identified to understand a manager’s reach.

What Does Span of Control Mean?

This is a crucial information for managers since they need to understand which are the resources available from a human resources standpoint. A hierarchical organizational structure normally has well defined boundaries that allow the manager to fully understand who are part of his team.

Nevertheless, when job positions are not properly designed, a confusing situation might emerge where a person has two or more bosses. This is important to avoid since it creates conflicts within the structure and guidelines become unclear for the subordinate. A clear definition of the span of control allows the manager to plan, organize and divide the work load among his team according to his work method, assigning each team member the duties he thinks they are capable to handle, according to their skills, knowledge and academic background.

Managers can also implement metrics to evaluate the performance of their span and influence them to increase their productivity depending on the results obtained.

Example

Omar was recently hired as a Supply Chain Manager in a plastic bag manufacturer. It has been a little difficult for him to perform his job correctly because the company hasn’t structured the department correctly. It seems that some of his team members are also employed by other departments of the company and they have been procrastinating the activities that Omar handles to them. This has caused a poor performance for the Supply Chain Department.

In order to correct this, Omar asked the CEO of the company to clarify his span of control to understand the organizational structure adequately. After the situations was evaluated, Omar’s department ended up with 4 team members that will work with him only. This has increased Omar’s department performance considerably.