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7 May, 2015

What Is The Optimum Span Of Control?

Christmas reminds me of the observation of a highly experienced management consultant from the UK. His name has long escaped me, but his rule of thumb on the optimum span of control remains.

Span of control, or span of management, refers to the number of direct reports a people leader manages. With a larger span of control, the cost of management can be reduced. However, if the span of control is too large, people managers may not have the capacity to effectively lead their people for high performance.

Of course, the optimum span of control depends on various factors. These include organisation size, nature of the organisation, nature of the job, the skills and competency of the managers, skills and abilities of employees, and the type of interaction between supervisors and employees. However, there must be a span of control over which performance starts to degrade.

The rule of thumb proposed by that long forgotten management consultant was this: “Christ only had 12 disciples. What makes you think you can manage more?”

Over the years I’ve found this observation to be an extraordinarily accurate indication of the optimum span of control for first and mid-level managers in a wide range of organisations.

This is my last blog post for the year. As you celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas, may you experience much peace and contentment. Have a wonderful Christmas, and a very relaxing holiday break.


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