More Direct Reports Make Life Easier – HBR

This is another great read for all leadership and management on today’s business challenges and needs rather than how you used to do it.   Another fallacy in this scene; your manager importance used to be measured by the increased number of direct reports, and your leadership or CEO importance was measured by the lesser number of direct reports.   Continue that thinking today and I would say your losses are just around the corner.

Excerpt:  Although it may be counter-intuitive, one of the most powerful changes you can make in your organization is to increase spans of control — a simple shift that can liberate employees, streamline the hierarchy, simplify processes, and reduce costs. Let me explain:

Span of control (“spans” for short) conventionally indicates how many people report to a single manager. After the concept was developed in the early part of the 20th century, many studies were conducted to analyze how bosses and subordinates communicate, so managers could have enough time to exert adequate “control.” One study noted, for example, that just going from seven to eight subordinates increased potential interactions from 490 to 1,080. Over time, most studies concluded that the magic number of direct reports was between five and seven.

Of course the assumption behind the entire concept is that the job of the manager is to control subordinates, which was certainly the case in traditional hierarchies. However, as organizations have become more organic, global, fluid, and dynamic, the manager’s job has changed. No longer is her primary function to aggregate work done by subordinates and control their activities; rather it is to foster teamwork and communication, while providing inspiration and direction. In short, today the manager’s job is more about leadership than control.

Read full article via More Direct Reports Make Life Easier – Ron Ashkenas – Harvard Business Review.

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