Span of Control and the Operational Commander: Is it More than just a Number?
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Span of Control and the Operational Commander: Is it More than just a Number?

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William G. Pierce
127 g
246x189x3 mm

This study examines the issue of span of control for an operational commander. The operational commander is required by joint and Army doctrine to organize his forces. In order to do so, he must understand the limits of his span of control when making organizational decisions. Span of control is not defined in either Army or joint publications, but the term is used in doctrinal manuals. At the tactical level, a span of, control between two and five units is believed to be appropriate. However, the commander's span of control at tactical levels is much larger when CS, CSS and staff are considered. At the operational level, understanding what affects span of control is essential. For subunified commands, joint task force organizations, field armies or army groups, the operational commander must establish his own organization. Nowhere in doctrine is a methodology for doing this described. Although the military does not define span of control, there is a wealth of information on it in management books. This treatment was examined in a military context. The factors that have the most influence on the commander's span of control are the similarity of function of the subordinates, the style of control of the commander, the type of coordination between the commander and his subordinates, and the number of personal contacts that the commander uses in his command style. Changes in the structure, tasks, and personnel will also affect the limits of span of control over time. Unfortunately, understanding the factors that influence span of control will not help a commander establish his initial span of control. They will only help him adjust his span of control given a number of subordinates and a situation. Thus, two to five subordinates appear to be a good starting place when the commander organizes his forces. Then, the commander must adjust his span of control based on the factors presented. There are three major doctrinal implications in this study. The Army and joint doctr