Ideal op models balance oversight and efficiency

Measure workload placed on managers to lead their teams

Supervisory burden is a concept that determines an organization’s appropriate span of control at a granular level so that it can achieve organizational efficiency and overall performance. This report unpacks the root causes of supervisory burden.

Sustainable organizational improvement: Unpacking the root causes of supervisory burden

Sustainable organizational improvement requires a deep look at the contributions to inefficiency to begin with – the concept of supervisory burden assesses a manager’ ability to execute management tasks while supervising direct reports to drive team performance. A span of control too wide/narrow causes inefficiency in a manager’s ability to manage.

Sustainable organizational improvement: Unpacking the root causes of supervisory burden

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Many of our clients come to us seeking to understand the root cause of an imbalanced span of control. More often than not, we have identified disproportionately small work groups and underutilized managers as the primary drivers of gaps between the current state and the optimal span of control for a business or function.

Several years ago, the Deloitte M&A team developed a concept called supervisory burden, which seeks to improve organizational efficiency by providing guidance in the design of an optimal organization structure and talent management model. Supervisory burden determines appropriate spans of control at a granular level to operate effectively and boost organizational performance.

Determining the degree of supervisory burden of managers within your organization helps determine the appropriate span of control to operate efficiently and effectively.

Four components of measuring supervisory burden

  1. The similarity of the work to the rest of the team
  2. The degree of standardization
  3. The complexity of the work
  4. The interdependency of the work

By recognizing your company’s root issue, you can improve your organization design and span of control efficiency. This POV describes the three common root causes driving small work groups: 

  • Operating model complexity
  • Organizational policies and practices
  • Working managers

When the span of control is too wide, supervisors do not have the visibility to anticipate ground-level performance and cost issues. When the span of control is too narrow, supervisors can spend close to 100% of their time as working managers, either managing individual employees directly or performing their employees’ work.


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