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Administrative Theory

Administrative Theory

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Published by Abhijit Jadhav
Public administration IGNOU study material.
Public administration IGNOU study material.

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Published by: Abhijit Jadhav on Nov 06, 2010
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It is not possible either for administrative theory or practice to lay down the ideal
number constituting the span of control. There are, however, certain general points of
agreement regarding this problein which you have to note. Firstly, it is agreed that a
span of control does exist at each level of supervision and it cannot beexceeded without
the danger of a breakdown. In this connection, L. Urwick quoting V.A. Graicunas
points out that if a superior adds a sixth to his five subordinates, the additional
assistance he can obtain is only 23%. but increase in the sGervision may amount to
100%. The reason is what has to be supervised is not only the individual subordinates,
but also the numerous permutations and combinations of tlreir mutual relationships.
So, span of control universally exists and it cannot be exceeded without the danger of a
breakdown. You may be interested to know that sometimes back the University Grants
Commission in India studied the problem of span of control and attention in the college

It came to the conclusion that a teacher can teach and'supervise only 10 to
12 students in a class-room most effectively and not beyond that limit.


Spnn of Control

Concepts in orgnaiplltion-a

Secondly, it is recognised that span of control depends on certain factors. It varies ~ifh
some factors viz., i) Function, ii) Tirne, iii) SfpBce, iv) Personality of supervisor and of
the subordinates; v) delegation of authority, and vi) techniques of supervision. We shall
discuss about each of these factors.

Function refers to the nature of the work to be supervised. WPnere the nature of work
is of a routine, repetitive, measurable and identical character, the span of control is
more than when the work isof different character. For example, it is easier to supervise
a large number of typists because of the measurable nature of their work but this will
not be so if doctors, engineers and typists etc., have to be supervised simultaneously,

Time refers to the age of the organisation. In old and established orgaarisations,
practices become perfect and things get stabilized. Such organisations run themsely,q
well through rapid supervision and greater span of control. But in newer orgarmisations,
precedents will be few and new problems constantly demand reference to tRa supe~iiors.
Hence, subordinates depend heavily upon their superiors and the span of control will
be less.

Space refers to the place of work. If tare subordinates are under the same roof along with
the supervisor, supervision becomes easier and quicker. Pf they work Bt different places,
supervision becomesdiffictnlt as they escape his personal atttntion. %m this conatext, it is
worth noting the distinction drawn by Urwick between 'direct supervision' and kcce:s'
to the boss. Iltmeans that while an officer can directly supervise only a limited number
of persons, he can introduce flexibility in the organisation by permitting large number
of subordinates to have 'access' to him.

Personality is 'The sum total of all the kraits of human behaviour'. It includes physical
and intellectual qualities of a person. If the supervisor is comgetent, energetic arnd
intelligent, he can supervise the work of a large number of subordinates. Qtherwise. hc
can supervise only a'less numbgr of subordinates. Similarly, it is easier to supcrvise the
work of a large number of subordinates if they are competent, energetic and intelligent.
Otherwise, only less number of subordinates can be supervised by a supervisor.

Delegation of authority alpo influences span of wntrol. Some supervisors keep only a
f.ew functions for themselves and delegate the rest to their subordinates. By doing so
they can supervise a iarge number of subordinates. There are some super-visars who
keep all the functions for themselves and do not delegate them at all: Soch supervisors
cannot control a large number of subordinates.

Techniques of supervision adopted by the superior also influence the span of control,
If the techniques of supervision are standardised, the spad of control will be more
because subordinates do npt need close supervision. Where the direct supervision of
the supervisor is required, the span of control will be less.

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