How many Peas in a Pod? – “City Hall Undergoes Makeover”: Daily News, May 4, 2010

While waiting for additional information from Ms. Hartley, the City’s Director of Human Resources, which can clarify several issues raised by the “City Hall Makeover” story in today’s Daily News, I would make a couple of general observations about organizations and their success.

Let me begin with the matter of Span of Control. Span of Control refers generally to the number of people who report to a single superior. While there is, of course, no set rule, the literature generally indicates that a manager will have between 4 and 22 people reporting to them.

For a discussion of organizational structure go to:

The width of that span has connotations for the organization which have been outlined in the above document which notes generally that a narrow span of control may be associated with: close supervision, high management costs, less independence for subordinates and poor executive communication. A broader span of control may be associated with overloaded supervisors, better operational costs, delegation of authority, and better communication between employees and top management.

It is my intuition that the span of control in the City is very close. I note that there are only three people for whom the City Manager is directly responsible and one of them is the newly appointed Assistant City Manager. I await an organization chart to see what the new top rungs look like and whether the old close supervision pattern holds true on a broader scale.

It seems that our Council decided that they had to appoint an Assistant City Manager to handle things when the City Manager is absent. There may be some logic to this as given holidays and sick days he could be absent for up to 45 weeks a year, i.e. up to 9 weeks in holidays and up to 36 weeks in short term sick days. Take away statutory holidays and a year is pretty well shot. But rather than hiring an old boy from the lineup, I have seen places where possible future leaders are rotated through the substitutions and thus everybody learns what it takes and a pool of possible replacements is created. This structure seemed to work well to me. We seem to be pretty rigid in Nanaimo. Is it serving us well? Your opinions are solicited.

Ron Bolin

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