Types of Span of Control

Types of Span of Control

In all organizations, the span of control plays an important role, with effects on organizational structure, such as supervisor-subordinate relations and decision-making processes. The term \"span of control\" refers to subordinates who can be personally controlled by a supervisor or administrator. This article explains the different types of the span of control.


Defining Span of Control

There are many ways of defining the span of control.

  • "Span of control" is defined by Dimock as "the number and range of direct, habitual communication exchanges between an enterprise's top executive and his principal fellow executives."
  • "Span of control" refers to the number of individuals a manager may supervise, according to Lois Allen.
  • "Span of control" refers to the greatest number of subordinates that can be put under the authority of one executive immediately superior to them, according to Peterson and Plowman.
  • According to Elliott Jaques, a manager can have as many direct subordinates as he wants to analyze personal efficiency.
  • The number of subordinates who can be properly monitored and controlled is characterized by Haimann and Scott as the span of control.


A broad definition of the span of control is the degree to which one person may effectively extend his or her supervisory abilities over other persons or administrative entities. Due to limited attention power, time, and energy, a wide range of control is required.

Related: Span of control: Everything you need to know

The efficient use of managers and the successful performance of their subordinates are both influenced by the span of control. The ideal span refers to the number of subordinates who should cost less and provide management greater strength.


Types of Span of Control


The span of control is classified into two types: wide span of control and narrow span of control. Which is the best option? Unfortunately, there is no definitive solution. Aside from the organizational structure used, each category offers advantages and disadvantages. This is explored further below.


Types of Span of Control

Wide-span of control

Wide-span of control means a single manager or supervisor oversees a large number of subordinates. A manager with a wide span of control may successfully monitor and control a big number of people at the same time. Because of the shorter span of control, the number of steps or levels in the vertical chain of command increases, resulting in a taller organization. Companies with flat organizational structures are prone to having a wide span of control.


This is because there are fewer layers between the top and bottom levels.


As a result, there is a short chain of command.




  • Low supervision overhead costs
  • Prompt response from employees
  • improved supervision
  • improved coordination
  • Suitable for repeated tasks.



  • More Delegation of Authority
  • Better Manager Development
  • Clear Policies
  • Subordinates are more autonomous when there is a wide span of control.
  • There are fewer levels in the managerial structure.
  • Best when work is repetitious in nature.
  • There is less direct communication between bosses and subordinates.
  • It is cost-effective.
  • Appropriate for larger firms
  • Reduced planning time,
  • Subordinates are well trained



  • Supervisors are overburdened
  • Risk of superiors losing control;
  • Requirement for highly qualified managing employees;
  • Decision-making hindered
  • Inefficient management.
  • The manager's workload has been increased.
  • Team members' duties are not clearly defined.
  • Less communication between bosses and subordinates lowers the manager's control.
  • Subordinates are perplexed.
  • Management will be difficult if the number is quite huge.
  • a certified superior is required
  • At lower levels, the delegation of authority may be problematic.

 Related: The Ideal Span of Control

Narrow Span of Control

A narrow span of control is seen when one boss controls a few subordinates. It is also known as the Executive span since it applies at the top or middle management levels. When the nature of the activity is complicated and requires more support from the superior, organizations choose a narrow span.


At a single level, a narrow span has fewer subordinates. As a result of the increased number of management levels, an organization's structure becomes taller.


  • Manager experience: Narrow spans of control may help new managers by allowing them to gather supervisory experience with a smaller number of direct reports.
  • Managers who are unable to connect with their direct reports in person may benefit from having fewer direct reports. If they are supervising workers that work remotely or in another branch, state, or country, having fewer individuals to monitor will allow them to manage their teams more successfully.
  • Interaction level: Some occupations need more regular interaction between managers and their staff than others. High phone numbers, meetings, and interactive job activities might take more time and require managers to exercise a tighter range of control.
  • Employees who execute a range of duties may benefit from having management with more ability. Similarly, managers who oversee people that execute independent and diverse activities frequently require narrow spans of control to manage effectively.
  • New operations: Implementing narrow spans of control can assist teams to adjust to new duties if the company or job demand is new to managers or workers.
  • Training: Management in charge of employee training can benefit from narrower spans of control since it enables more time to focus on individual employee training and development.



  • Smaller teams can communicate more quickly.
  • Small groups are easier to govern and manage.
  • Has a high level of specialization and labour division.
  • Increased and improved prospects for staff advancement.
  • The manager has direct supervision over each of his subordinates.
  • Typically, the nature of labour is complex.
  • Communication between subordinates and their management is effective.
  • More tiers in the management structure.
  • Management easiness
  • Management control has been improved.
  • Effective supervision



  • Excessive control over employees may stifle their inherent skills and inventiveness.
  • Decision-making takes a long time when the hierarchy of control is extended.
  • The limited breadth of control inhibits cross-functional issue resolution.
  • As more managers are recruited, the expense rises.
  • Increased organizational management layers
  • Delay in transmitting information from top to bottom
  • Delay in decision making


Related: 17 span of control: Facts you need to remember all the time

Hopefully, this article has given you an appreciation of the different types of spans of control. For more information on the span of control, you can refer to this article on everything you need to know about the span of control.


Fadzai Danha
This article was written by Fadzai a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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