What is a Narrow Span of Control? Definition, Features, and Pros/Cons

What is Narrow Span of Control?

A narrow span of control means that a manager oversees only a small group of employees, forming a close-knit team. This approach is common in organizations with a clear chain of command and hierarchical structure.

With fewer direct reports, the manager can provide more individualized attention and closely monitor their work. In a narrow span of control, the manager is actively involved in the team’s day-to-day activities, fostering better communication and support.

It is well-suited for complex tasks or when employees require more guidance. However, decision-making might take longer due to increased interactions. Though it offers greater control, it could demand more managerial resources.

Characteristics of Narrow Span of Control

In the narrow span of management, a manager or supervisor is responsible to oversee a small group of employees. Its major features include the following:

Limited Number of Subordinates

In a narrow span of control, a manager oversees only a small group of employees, typically ranging from a few to a handful. This limited number ensures that the manager can maintain a close and personal relationship with each team member.

Close Supervision

With a smaller team, the manager can closely monitor the activities and progress of each individual. This level of oversight allows the manager to provide personalized attention, guidance, and support to their subordinates.

As a result, employees may feel more valued and motivated, leading to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

Faster Decision-Making

Due to the smaller number of subordinates, decision-making can be more efficient and quicker in a narrow span of control. With fewer layers of approval and a streamlined communication process, managers can make critical decisions promptly, allowing for a more agile and responsive organization.

More Direct Interaction

A narrow span of control encourages more frequent and direct communication between the manager and employees. This enhanced interaction fosters a stronger working relationship and a better understanding of individual needs, challenges, and goals.

Employees may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns, leading to a more open and communicative work environment.

Also Read: What is Chain of Command?

Advantages of Narrow Span of Control

The narrow span of management offers various benefits to the organization. The followings five are some of them.

Personalized Attention

A narrow span of control allows managers to give each employee more individualized attention and support. Just like a teacher can focus better on fewer students, a manager can understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, leading to better guidance and improved performance.

Efficient Communication

With fewer employees to manage, communication becomes smoother and faster. It’s like having a small group of friends where everyone can easily participate in discussions.

In a narrow span of management, employees can openly share their ideas and concerns, and managers can respond promptly, promoting a collaborative work environment.

Enhanced Accountability

In a small team, each member’s contributions are more visible and measurable. Like in a sports team, individual players’ actions are noticeable. Similarly, in a narrow span of control, employees feel more responsible for their work, leading to increased accountability and higher levels of productivity.

Closer Team Bonds

Just like a close-knit family, a narrow span of control fosters a sense of togetherness among team members. With fewer people, everyone knows each other well, creating a supportive and united team that collaborates effectively to achieve shared goals.

Effective Oversight

A narrow span of control enables managers to have a comprehensive view of their team’s activities, much like a captain overseeing a small crew on a ship. This oversight allows them to identify potential issues early on and provide timely guidance, ensuring the team stays on course toward success.

Also Read: What is Top-Level Management?

Disadvantages of Narrow Span of Control

Although it provides various benefits, it also has some limitations. The followings are some cons of a narrow span of control.

Limited Scalability

Just like a small group of friends might struggle to accommodate more people in their activities, a narrow span of control can hinder a company’s ability to grow and expand. As the organization increases in size, the manager may find it challenging to manage the increasing workload and might become overwhelmed.

Higher Costs

Imagine throwing a party with only a few guests – it can be expensive for each guest. Similarly, a narrow span of control can be costlier for the company.

With fewer employees under each manager, more managers might be needed, leading to increased expenses in terms of salaries, office space, and resources.

Micromanagement Tendencies

In a small team, it’s like having a close eye on every single detail. Similarly, a narrow span of control can lead to micromanagement, where managers excessively supervise employees, hindering their autonomy and creativity. This can result in decreased employee morale and job satisfaction.

Limited Diversity of Ideas

Just like a small group of friends may have limited perspectives, a narrow span of control can restrict the diversity of ideas within the team. With fewer employees, there are fewer unique viewpoints, and innovative solutions may be overlooked, potentially hindering the company’s ability to adapt and innovate in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Also Read: 5 Functions of Management: Definition, Examples, and Importance

When To Use Narrow Span of Control?

All the time the narrow span of control might not be appropriate to use in the organization. In its weak situations, a wide span of control may be appropriate. Let’s look at some situations when the narrow span of control can be used appropriately.

Complex Tasks

When the tasks performed by employees require complicated coordination and close supervision, a narrow span of control is suitable. In complex projects, managers can provide hands-on guidance and ensure that each team member fully understands their role.

New Employees or Trainees

When onboarding new employees or trainees, a narrow span of control is beneficial. Managers can devote more time to the training and development of each individual, ensuring they receive personalized attention and support during the learning process.

High Interaction Jobs

Jobs that involve frequent interaction, such as customer service or client relations, benefit from a narrow span of control. Managers can provide immediate feedback and assistance to employees, ensuring that customer needs are met promptly.

Remote or Dispersed Teams

In the case of remote or geographically dispersed teams, a narrow span of control is appropriate. Managers can maintain closer communication with employees who may be physically distant, ensuring efficient coordination and timely decision-making.

Read Next: What is Style of Management? Definition, Types, Styles, and Pros/Cons

Leave a Comment