The number of subordinates a manager can effectively manage depends on the impact of underlying factors. Aside from such personal capacities as comprehending quickly, getting along with people, and commanding loyalty and respect, the most important determinant is a managerís ability to reduce the time he or she spends with subordinates. This ability naturally varies with managers and their jobs, but several factors materially influence the number and frequency of such contacts and therefore the span of management.
The better the training of subordinates, the fewer the number of necessary superior-subordinate relationships. Well-trained subordinates require not only less of their managerís time but also less contact with their managers. Training problems increase in new and more complex industries. Managers in the technologically stable railroad industry, for example, would tend to be more completely trained than those in the ever-expanding aerospace industry. The rapid changes in policy and procedures in the complex electronics and missile industries would increase training problems.
Training enables managers to reduce the frequency and extensiveness of time-consuming contacts. The principal cause of the heavy time burdens of superior-subordinate relationships, however, is to be found in poorly conceived and confused organization. The most serious symptom of poor organization affecting the span of management is inadequate or unclear authority delegation. If a manager clearly delegates authority to undertake a well-defined task, a well-trained subordinate can get it done with a minimum of the managerís time and attention.
But if the subordinateís task is not one that can be done, if it is not clearly defined, or if the subordinate does not have the authority to undertake it effectively, either the task will not be performed or the manager will have to spend a disproportionate amount of time supervising and guiding the subordinateís efforts.
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