• concept analysis;
  • levels of analysis;
  • management;
  • nursing;
  • organizational structure;
  • span of control;
  • work organization


Title. Span of management: concept analysis

Aim.  This paper is a report of a concept analysis of span of management.

Background.  Span of management is an important structural variable in evaluating the contributions of nursing managers to healthcare systems. Span of management is typically measured as a ratio. A wide variety of operational definitions have been applied and these differences have not been reconciled.

Data sources.  A search of CINAHL, PsychINFO and Business Source Premier was completed in 2007 using the terms span of management, span of control, organizational structure, hierarchy, supervisory ratio and work group size. Key publications (1975–2007) and seminal works were included.

Review methods.  Morse’s concept analysis approach was used to determine the pragmatic utility of the concept. A critical appraisal of the literature assessed the use of the concept across disciplines, identified inconsistencies within the concept, and uncovered assumptions and conceptual gaps.

Findings.  At the organizational level, span represents supervisory capability. At the level of the manager, span may reflect reporting structure, closeness of contact, or scope of the role. At the work group level, span quantifies work group size. At the employee level, span represents employee support. These measures are influenced by units of measurement and by context.

Conclusion.  A systematic understanding of span of management concepts, measures and determinants will assist nurse executives in selecting parameters to quantify the allocation of managerial resources. Researchers can incorporate these parameters in comparisons across studies and in advancing the science of nursing management.