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Org Design – Spans of Control

Org Design – Spans of Control

Posted: 7th October 2020

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      Hi, I am doing some work on Org Design and our Board are particularly keen to review our spans of control (i.e. ratio of managers to employees). I have some of my own views, but am keen to understand external benchmarks or any best practice / guidance that I can use to inform the review. If anyone is prepared to share what their orgs do or signpost any info, I would be really grateful. Many thanks, Emma


        Hi Emma,

        We’ve always heard best practice tends to say roughly a span of 10:1, however, you might not want to go for a one size fits all ratio as it will depend so much on other factors based on your context or strategy and each team may have different needs.  You might want to consider these questions to help you think it through:

        1. How dispersed are the team? If they’re managing people remotely it may take more leadership time then if they’re all in one location
        2. What’s the capability of the people being managed? i.e. those with less experience in the team or less control over their own work may need more support (although could be supported with a mentor/buddy)
        3. What’s the capability of the leaders?  How experienced are they in empowering their people, getting best from them etc..
        4. How much of their role is pure leadership versus fulfilling another role? If they were an Accountant for example and 80% of their job was client/fee earning work, how much time have they got left for leading a team?
        5. How diverse are the team that they manage in terms of what they do?  For example, if they are all Accountants doing the same type of work they might be easier to manage.
        6. How easy is it for your leaders to manage their  team? If there lots of central process and compliance their span of control may need be reduced (or those processes streamlined to free them up).

        Here are some good external articles: resource)

        I hope this helps. We’d love to know where you end up.

        Good luck!

        The Disruptive HR Club Team


          Great advice and glad this question was asked.  It’s something I’m looking at currently too.  Our hierarchy seems to grow arms and legs as people are given line management responsibility for one or two people for their (line manager) development.

          It’s unfortunately not (always) conducive to the development of the individual reports however due to e.g. lack of consistency or a line manager who is themselves quite junior, and it makes engaging with the line manager community quite difficult when we can’t always pin down who is included.


            Thank you – all of those questions are really useful considerations and I will read the articles and keep you posted.  The challenge for my organisation is we have very different business areas, contact centres and head office and corporate functions so definitely one size does not fit all.

            Yes Jennifer, I understand your situation too, I am trying to establish some Org Design principles to help manage exactly as you’ve explained.

            I will keep you posted as to where we get to.


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