What Do These Terms Mean: 'Span Of Control', 'Communication Channels', And 'Chain Of Command'?


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The Span of Control theory is a theory first applied in the military. Basically, it means the number of people for whom a single person is held responsible and accountable. The dominate use of this phrase is found in human resource management jargon today. As our country developed and expanded from small to medium to large companies, there was a need to to gain greater knowledge and control over the levels of production among workers.

Through the development of Human Resource Departments, the theory of Span of Control was adopted into non-military fields. Today the Span of Control theory is an effective management control found in every organization and in all fields. Even the number of students per classroom from pre-school though college is applied in the field of education.

Communication Channels are the means, by which and through which, information is conveyed from a sender to a receiver. These channels can be through interpersonal communication within and through any of the technological forms of communication. The simplest definition of communication is the transfer of information and channels are the term applied to the methods or means, by which the information is passed on, for instance verbally or in writing.

Communication channels in relation to the Span of Control theory are the means, by which communication is carried out from the top to the bottom in an organization.

Often, in the workplace someone will ask, What are the communication channels within this company? If, one person has a concern, question, complaint what is the proper method to deal with this? Normally, one would take the question to a supervisor or manager, however knowing the means by which this is to be done is important. The communication channel could be simply speaking with the appropriate person, or the information may need to be delivered in a formal letter. The message goes from the employee to the next person in line,and from that person to the head or to a Board perhaps. The communication channels would then be the procedures for communicating up and down the chain of command.

The Chain of Command is the route one takes to communicate with authority. The person at the top of the chain is the one ultimately responsible and accountable,for the actions of all employees within the workplace. He/she is the authority for the rules, regulations and transfer of authority within an organization. On some levels the Chain of Command ends with a Board of Directors and within this Board the authority is usually vertical and then moves downward through the top executive to the rest of the

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