What are the advantages and disadvantages of a narrow span of control?

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thetall eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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An organization’s span of control can be determined by the number of employees reporting to the manager/ supervisor. A narrow span of control refers to a structure with few employees reporting to the manager, while a wide span of control refers to a structure with many employees reporting to a supervisor.

The advantages of a narrow span of control include the following:

  • A narrow span of control increases the level of contact between the manager and members of the team. The increased contact improves the ability to supervise activities carried out by the employees effectively, which may increase productivity.
  • A narrow span of control enhances communication between the supervisor and the team members. The team members can easily access the supervisor for assistance. Enhanced communication also helps in faster decision-making and problem-solving.

The disadvantages of a narrow span of control include the following:

  • A narrow span of control may be expensive to implement depending on the number of teams in the organization.
  • A narrow span of control may limit the ability of team members to exercise independence in decision-making and problem-solving processes.
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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The concept of span of control is an important concept in business. It refers to how many workers a manager is supervising. There are advantages and disadvantages to having a narrow span of control.

When a manager has a narrow span of control, the manager will be able to communicate quickly with the employees that he or she is supervising. The manager should also have a good handle on what is going on in the business. These advantages may be beneficial for the company.

When a manager has a narrow span of control, issues may also arise. The manager may be perceived as being too involved and meddling too much. A supervisor who is too involved may threaten workers. This may reduce creativity and productivity. It may also lead to poor morale in the company.

It is important for a company to determine the proper span of control. This will help the company grow and its workers thrive.

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mrkirschner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A narrow span of control in a business means that there are more managers that supervise a smaller number of employees.  It creates a "taller" management hierarchy with more managers than what exists in a wider span of control.  Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to a narrow span of control.  First, because managers can exhibit closer management of employees, employees can perform more difficult tasks.  A narrow span of control is needed if employees are inexperienced or the tasks that are performed are complex or difficult.  The closer relationship between employee and manager also impacts communication in a positive way.  Because of this closer relationship, however, employees may not feel empowered and may feel devalued.  In a narrow span system, layers of management are added to the hierarchy which may encourage workers to improve their performance because they know that there is the opportunity for upward mobility in the company.  The biggest negative of a narrow span of control is that because of the increase in members of the management team, labor costs increase for the company.  

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