Span of management directly affects the number of levels in the organization. Span of management is of two types; Wider span of management and Narrow span of management. Wider span of management leads to flat organization whereas narrow span of management result in tall organization structure. The principle of span of management does not by itself resolve the conflict between the advantages to tall organization and that of a flat one.
Narrow spans lead to many levels in the organization and thus required a larger number of managers. This, in turn, leads to larger expenses in the form of executive remuneration. Expenses are further increased on account of additional clerical and office staff needed as a result of there being large number of managers. The process of control also gets complicated when there are narrow spans and too many levels in the organization structure. Another serious problem in having too many levels in the organization is posed by the practice that communication must flow through proper channels only. The more the levels in the organization through which the communication must passes, the greater will be the danger of its being misunderstood, misinterpreted or distorted. Since the number of levels through which orders, plans and policies must pass increases, there is also the real damage of subordinates away from the top leadership losing even their desire to understand them properly. If subordinates are allowed to communicate directly, the immediate superior will find himself in the most precarious position of the matter being disposed of without his knowledge or having come to know of the information after being communicated to others. However, the effective solution to thus practical problem lies in encouraging lower level managers to develop cross relationships.
Narrow spans also adversely affect employee morale. A subordinated who finds himself submerged at the bottom of the organization pyramid feels sensitive about the fact that he hears nothing from the top leadership. Moreover, due to such placement he gets very few opportunities to develop self-reliance and initiative and enjoys hardly any feeling of belongingness. All these factors make the employees less enthusiastic in their jobs and greatly reduce their morale. Narrow spans also reduce opportunities for management development. Too many levels hardly allow for delegation of any real authority and greatly limit the supervision to a very few activities at lower levels. The result is that the subordinate is deprived of the benefit of managing a larger number of related activities. Supervision of too many people on the other hand, can also lead to trouble, supervision will become less effective because the manager will not have sufficient time and energy to attend to each of his subordinates. Large number of contacts required may also distract him to the extent of neglecting important questions of policy.
The above considerations of narrow and wide spans of management point to the imperative need for a balance. Advantages and disadvantages of these two situations should be carefully examined in terms of tangible as well as intangible factors; and actual span of management should be determined keeping in view the entire pertinent factor in a particular situation and at a given time.
Credit: Principles of Management-MGU