What impact might a narrow span of control have on a manager?

Expert Answers
ulmerl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends on what's meant by "narrow span of control," but I can certainly think of examples that might be helpful in answering this question. When we use the term "manager," we are presupposing this individual supervises and has some degree of control over at least one other individual. The thing to remember is that every manager has their own manager, and so their ability to manage is either aided or hindered by the expectations of those above them. If the culture at the organization is lenient and casual, the manager might not find support in her ability to enforce an expectation of punctuality. If the head of the organization doesn't demonstrate the expectation that employees are to arrive and leave at a designated time, then a mid-level manager has a narrow span of control when it comes to insisting that her employees are on time.

thatmelinda | Student

A "narrow span of control" typically refers to the number of subordinates, or people to manage, that a manager has. Having a narrow span of control, or fewer subordinates, allows a manager to be more involved in the day to day work of his or her subordinates. This is beneficial when the work involved is complex. Managers are able to be more available and involved because they aren't supervising as many people. The disadvantage to a narrow span of control would be that there are a larger number of managers within the organization. This can make it more difficult to make changes, as there are a larger number of people that need to be involved in each decision. There are also more levels of management in organizations with a narrow span of control, so it can be more difficult to reach upper levels of management.

pwitteman | Student

The impact of the "narrow span of control" on a manager really depends on the level of the manager in the organization and what industry and size of an organization the manager is working. The span of control refers to how many employees a manager can control efficiently and effectively on a daily basis.

To answer the above question, we have to discuss the two types of organizations.  

 1. Centralized organizations 

 2. Decentralized organizations

In a centralized organization, many of the decisions are made from the top managers and the lower level managers carry out the top manager's requests. 

In the decentralized organization, the decisions do not come from the top managers but utilize the managers that are closest or have more expertise in the department in order to take appropriate action to solve the problems. 

An example of a centralized organization is the U.S. Army. The top managers make the decisions whether to make any changes within departments and the lower level managers carry out the directives. 

An example of a decentralized organization is Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson believe that a decentralized organization creates more innovation compared to a centralized organization due to the freedom employees have in solving problems.

In answering the question above, the impact of a narrow span of control can be costly because there is a need for more managers to supervise more employees, the level of hierarchy can lead to slow decision-making processes within the organization, and the communication with other managers can be more complex leading to more miscommunications within the organization.