Span of control What's your maximum span of control?

What's the maximum number of people you can manage?

This question can be answered in many ways. We'll try a very simple intuitive quantitative approach, to calculate your maximum span of control.

First we'll define a simple model by describing two extreme cases:

Case I: Individual management

Suppose:

• You're the manager of a team that exists of N members (beside) yourself.
• Each member of your team only demands 'individual coaching'.
• The team-members don't need each other on a regularly basis to do their job.

In this case practice has proven that you can manage between N=10 to 15 people, depending on how much attention each team-member demands and how the individual tasks are structured. The 'load' (Li) a manager experiences in this case is defined linear to the amount of team-members [N].

 Li = IA x N

With: IA = Individual Attention = the % of his total-working-time a manager has to spent on individual team-members to achieve the defined goals.

R Examples: Supervisor of a telemarketing-unit; Head of a sales department.

Case II: Mutual management

Suppose:

• You're the manager of a team that exists of N members (beside) yourself.
• The results of your team depend strongly on the level and success of co-operation, specialisation and creativity within the team.
• To retain success, the manager of this team needs not only to coach the individual team-members, but also their mutual interactions.

In this case the 'load' of the manger increases quadratic with the number of team-members, according to the next formula:

 Lm = MA x N x ( N+1 ) / 2

With: MA = Mutual Attention = the % of his total-working-time a manager has to spent on relations with and between the different team-members to achieve the defined goals

R Examples: Manager of a product development project; Manager of a marketing department.

In practice, managing a team consists of a combination of the two cases described above.

We now may define the total 'weighted' workload L as the sum of Li and Lm .

 L = Li + Lm = IA x N + MA x N x (N+1) / 2

The variable L can now be seen as a intuitive Span of Control variable (SOC).

 Span of Control Calculator

Determine the maximum of people you can manage.
• The first column gives the potential number of people (=N) of your team (excluding yourself), that equals the minimum number of relations you have with members of your team.
• The second column gives the maximum number of relations (M = N x (N+1) / 2) that you in relation to your team have to deal with.
• The variable "Individual Attention" (IA = percentage) is that part of your working-time (%) that you need for individual attention of your teammembers.
• The variable "Mutual Attention" (MA = percentage) is that part of your working-time (%) that you spend in managing the synergies of your team (relationshps between teammembers including yourself).
• The span of control (SOC) is now defined the 'weighted' number of relations you have to manage in a team of N members. This is calculated as:

SOC(n) = IA x N + MA x M

The maximum number of relations a person can manage and oversee depends on several personal skills en varies between 10 and 15.
From this you can conclude the optimal maximum number of teammembers.
(Note: the sum of IA+MA doesn't have to be 100%: you need time for other things in life !)
• ```
IA = % of work-time spent on individual attention =  %

MA = % of work-time spent on mutual attention     =  %
```

### Span of Control [SOC(n)]

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Example 1

You have a team thats consists of 5 members (n=5).
You're spending 20 % (=IA) of your time on individual coaching..
50 % (=MA) of your time is spend on managing groupsprocesses.
Your weighted span of control is now calulated as 8.5, wich is well manageable.

Example 2

You have a team thats consists of 10 members (n=10).
You're spending 20 % (=IA) of your time on individual coaching..
40 % (=MA) of your time is spend on managing groupsprocesses.
Your weighted span of control is now calulated as 24.0, wich is not well manageable.

Example 3

Suppose you're the CEO of a large company with 5 other boardmembers (N=5).
You're spending 10 % (=IA) of your time on individual coaching.
60 % (=MA) of your time is spend on managing the complex structures between the different businessunits of your company, that your teammembers are responseable for.
Your weighted span of control is now calulated as 9.5, wich is not reasonable.

J.N. Berkemeijer
info at Managementplaza