Factors, which determine the optimum span, may be stated as follows:
1. Ability of Executives:
The supervisory ability of executives is composed of the capacity to comprehend problems quickly, to get along well with people and to command respect and loyalty from subordinates. In addition, the communicative skill, decision making, leadership ability and controlling power are important determinants of the supervisory ability.
Accordingly, executives differ from one another in their ability to supervise others. When the ability is high, a large number of subordinates can be supervised. In contrast, the poor ability results in limiting the span of supervision.
2. Capacity of Subordinates:
Efficient and trained subordinates can discharge their duties satisfactorily without much help and direction from the superior. In such a case, the span may be larger because a superior will be required to devote less time in managing them. Similarly, changes in subordinates make a span narrower.
3. Nature of Work:
When the work involves routine and repeated efforts or where the executive manages similar functions, the executive becomes well versed with jobs and can handle a larger number of subordinates. On the contrary, activities and functions, with a degree of variability and probably of more complex nature, increase interrelationships and consume more time of the executive to dispose them off. This type of case warrants a fewer number of persons to be handled by the supervisor.
4. Time required to be spent on Supervision:
Every manager spends part of his time in contacting/attending persons, in doing administrative job of planning and policy making and looking after some other processes. These functions are not directly related to the guidance of the subordinates. Hence, the span to a great extent varies on the availability of time for supervision.
5. Delegation of Authority:
Ambiguous or inadequate authority delegation consumes disproportionate time of the manager in counselling and guidance of the subordinates. Where subordinates are delegated with a clearly defined authority, sufficient to carry out the assigned duties provided they are trained enough, they would, considerably, reduce the time and attention of the senior, thus helping to increase the span of the executive.
6. Degree of Decentralization:
An executive operating under decentralized set up is relieved of much of the burden of making programmed decisions and can afford to supervise relatively a larger number of subordinates.
7. Use of Objective Standards:
Reviewing the performance of subordinates can either be done by personal observation or through the use of objective standards. In the latter case, a manager is saved of many time-consuming relationships and can concentrate on points of strategic importance, thus widening his span of supervision.
8. Territorial Continuity of Functions Supervised:
Where functions are geographically separated, supervision of components and personnel becomes more difficult and time consuming. The manager must spend considerable time in visiting the separate units and make use of more time- consuming formal means of communication. Geographic continuity of functions supervised by the manager, therefore, operates to reduce his span of control.
9. Availability of Staff Assistance:
When an organization is equipped with staff services, subordinates, as a result, gain much of their guidance on methods, schedules and personnel problems from staff experts and, thus, require fewer contacts with line managers. The manager normally gets involved when the staff fails to run the show. Thus, the provision of staff assistance helps the executives to supervise a large number of subordinates.
Allen has suggested consideration of following points to determine spans:
5. Attitude towards delegation
Additional factors, which determine span in an organization, can be listed as follows:
1. Training of the manager
2. Capacity and the mind-set of the subordinates
3. Dynamic and complex nature of activities
4. The degree to which objective standards are established
5. The extent of delegation and the clarity of delegation
6. Existence of a good communication system
7. Degree of decentralization