How many subordinates should a manager manage? There is no simple answer. Span of management refers to the number of subordinates who report to a particular manager. A wide span of management exists when a manager directly supervises a very large number of employees. A narrow span of management exists when a manager directly supervises only a few subordinates. 19
Complementing the concept of span of management is organizational layers, the levels of management in an organization. A company with many layers of managers is considered tall; in a tall organization, the span of management is narrow. Because each manager supervises only a few subordinates, many layers of management are necessary to carry out the operations of the business. 20
The simplest organizational structure, line structure, has direct lines of authority that extend from the top manager to employees at the lowest level of the organization. This structure has a clear chain of command, which enables managers to make decisions quickly. A mid-level manager facing a decision must consult only one person, his or her immediate supervisor. However, this structure requires that managers possess a wide range of knowledge and skills. They are responsible for a variety of activities and must be knowledgeable about them all. Line structures are most common in small businesses. 21
The line-and-staff structure has a traditional line relationship between superiors and subordinates, and specialized managers—called staff managers—are available to assist line managers. Line managers can focus on their area of expertise in the operation of the business, while staff managers provide advice and support to line departments on specialized matters such as finance, engineering, human resources, and the law. However, line-and-staff organizations may experience problems with overstaffing and ambiguous lines of communication. Additionally, employees may become frustrated because they lack the authority to carry out certain decisions. 22
As companies grow and diversify, traditional line structures become difficult to coordinate, making communication difficult and decision making slow. When the weaknesses of the structure—the “turf wars,” miscommunication, and working at cross-purposes—exceed the benefits, growing firms tend to restructure, often into the divisionalized form. A multidivisional structure organizes departments into larger groups called divisions. Just as departments might be formed on the basis of geography, customer, product, or a combination of these, so too divisions can be formed based on any of these methods of organizing. Multidivisional structures permit delegation of decision-making authority, allowing divisional and department managers to specialize.
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- Spring '14