Spans of control

Good morning all,

I've been asked this question from one of my manager and got really stuck:

What would you consider to be the ideal (or average) management span of control in the facilities management operations sector?

Is there some research anywhere that shows a benchmark, highlighting where Supervisors/Managers have too many people reporting to them?

I had a look online and couldn't find a clear number. Hopefully, someone came across this before?

Many thanks in advance,


  • I don't know of any industry-specific research on the subject, but I believe there has been work done on maximum number of direct reports any one person should have and still be expected to do a decent job. Unfortunately, I'm not sufficiently academic to be able to point you to the research itself, but I've worked for years on the basis that no one person can have more than six direct reports without there being a degradation of the quality of management.

    As a young Army officer I had to write annual reports on upwards of thirty subordinates and it was completely impossible for me to have a realistic impression of the performance of more than half a dozen of them. Since then, I've observed many managers attempting to directly manage number of direct reports greater than six and have never seen them able to do it effectively, regardless of the quality of the manager (and many of them were really excellent managers).
  • In reply to Robey:

    Thank you Robey, 6 does seem a sensible number. I'll have a look further to see if I can find some more research on this.
  • Hi Sabrina,

    The Institute of Employment Studies might be able to help (e.g. www.employment-studies.co.uk/.../quantitative-and-econometric-analysis). I only ever came across them while I was doing my HR degree (which I always felt was more academic than practical hands-on) but this sounds like the sort of thing that would be right up their street.

    As a rule of thumb though, Robey's 6 feels about right.
  • In reply to Sabrina:

    But I know a few businesses where I live which have supervisors and/or managers have over 12 direct reports and manage perfectly.

    I really depends on what your organisation can manage and that is also related to the quality of your managers.
  • In reply to Laura Fazackarley:

    These are great recommendations. Thank you everyone.