Principles of Administration

The principles of administration involves unity of command, span of control, ability to delegate, diversity, dispersion etc.

Unity of command: this entails that an individual in an organization should report to only one superior or boss otherwise there would be ambiguity uncertainty, error of performance, and frustration in the organization. If there is no unity of command, the subordinate would not know the legitimate source of authority in the organization.

Examples are if the vice chancellor of a university and the chairman of the governing council of the same university issue different instructions on the same matter or subject to the deputy vice chancellor, the later would be confused as to which instruction to obey.

Another salient example is where the chairman of the board of directors of a company of a company and the general manager of the same company issue conflicting instruction to the personal manager.

To avoid this kind of problem, an organization structure should show clearly the lines of authority and responsibility. Where functional authority makes multiplicity of command inevitable such instruction or command should be issued through the appropriate line manager or immediate superior of the subordinate concerned.

A superior should not by-pass his immediate subordinate to issue instructions downwards and it is also important to clearly define the area covered by the functional authority of every manager.

Span of Control: These principles of span of control refer to the maximum number of subordinate personnel’s, superior can mange or supervise effectively.

A management consultant, Linddall Urwick opined that the ideal number is four for top management where tasks are complex and at the performance of specific tasks and not for the supervisor of others, the number may be eight or twelve.

The problem with this principle is that there is no agreed number of subordinates a superior should control. Different numbers have been suggested ranging up to forty, based on various studies:

Some management experts have established that the number of persons for whom the manager can effectively lead and control depends on the following five factors:

Diversity: the more dissimilar the work being supervised, the more effort and attention a manager must devote to planning, organizing, leading and controlling.

Dispersion: the more widely separated (geographically) the activities being supervised the more difficult it is to plan, organize, lead and control them.

Complex: the complexity of the work being performed will determine the frequency with which new kinds of problems arise and the difficulty of handling them, it is more difficult to plan, organize, lead and control complex work because of knowledge and information required to do an effective job.

Volume: apart from complexity and diversity, the volume of the work being performed by those being supervised will influence the manager’s ability to plan, organize lead and control, the workers.

Ability to delegate: if the manager limits himself largely to managing, that is planning, organizing, leading and controlling he can supervise more people than, if he insists on doing much of their work for them. 

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