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smu mba assignments answer MB0038: Management Process and Organisational Behaviour Q1. What do you mean by Span of Control? Differentiate between narrow span of control and wide span of control. Describe the factors that influence the span of control.

AnswerSpan of Control: it is the extent to which a superior is able to supervise maximum number of subordinates efficiently and effectively. This is also known as the span of management/supervision. Span of control refers to the maximum number of employees that can be supervised efficiently and effectively by a senior.

There are two types of spans – narrow span of control and wide span of control. In a narrow span of control, there are a smaller number of subordinates to be supervised by a senior and hence, due to a smaller number of subordinates the number of levels in the organization gets
increased. This takes the shape of a tall organization. On the other hand, where there is a larger number of subordinates being directed by a senior, there will be few layers in the organization and will shape it as a wide or flat organization. Studies reveal that companies like Du Pont, General Motors, Hindustan Lever Ltd., Bank of America have wide spans.

Difference between narrow and wide span of control:
In a narrow span of control, there is a smaller number of subordinates to be supervised by a senior. Where there are a bigger number of subordinates being directed by a senior, it is known as wide span of control. Centralization refers to the degree to which authority is concentrated at one position, whereas decentralization refers to the distribution of authority to other levels of the organization.
When a very few people report to a head and a chain is made that way upward, then it is called narrow span. Thus in a narrow span, a department may have three or four sections, under each section head, there could be another two or three sub section and under each sub section there could be nine or ten employees. In a wide span there may be 20, 30, or more subordinates under one head.
For example, if the employees are highly mature, responsible and work oriented, then the managers can go for participative leadership and decentralization, or can opt for large span of control to give full freedom to their employees. But, if the employees are not so mature or avoid taking any responsibility, the managers will have to follow a directive style of leadership with centralized authority and narrow span of control. Therefore, the varied situations affect the structure directly, and hence, the organizations.

Span of control is dependent on a few factors such as:
(i) capacity of the senior to direct more number of subordinates
(ii) capacity of subordinates to do the tasks themselves
(iii) size of the organization
(iv) nature of work
(v) time available for supervision
(vi) control mechanism – if a senior wants direct supervision then he can only go for narrow span and if there is a thorough reporting system, then wide span can be managed and
(vii) effectiveness of communication – in case of clear and transparent communication, large number of levels can be managed easily.


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