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How many direct and indirect reports do you have?

How many direct reports do you have?I've seen time and time again the number of people you have managed being a metric used in the hiring process. I haven't quite figured out how that makes you a better supervisor/manager, but who said the hiring process is logical and realistic. So how many people do you have as direct reports and how many people do you manage? The B-School answer is 7-10 directs, which can be a range of 49 - 70 second level and you can do the math for subsequent levels. The Incident Command System (ICS) standard is 5 - 7 directs and 25 to 35 second levels (etc.). So how many directs and indirects do you have (and if more than the range discussed, why?)

Answers

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

I worked with a large consulting agency a few years ago. At that time I was on the client side. The consultant recommended the maximum number of directs to be managed was 8 (the middle of your range).

But over the years I have seen that the proper number is mostly impacted by the efficiency of the process you manage. I have worked with highly efficient processes (some I put in place) and an employee count greater than 8, without issue. I have also managed functions with fewer than 8 that consumed a great deal of time, as every day was a fire drill.

Number managed as a metric is extremely misleading.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Agree on your last sentence.

Maybe it's important for "command and control" functions/cultures???

Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

Proformative offers 400+ business courses with free CPE, many on Management.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I completely agree with Regis. We have district managers struggling to manage five stores because of the level of leadership running the stores. While you have to have streamlined processes you also have to have competent leaders in place who can execute.

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

It really depends on the manager doesn't it? In ICS you obviously need to have a standard because of the nature of the issues you are dealing with, but in the corporate world it differs significantly.

I have managed a team of 2 that is now growing to 5 and still feel I have capacity for more reports however other managers might be comfortable with less.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

So, based in the answers so far; it's dependent on one or two factors: the person (manager) and the quality if those being managed.

But can one truly "manage" 50 or 100 people directly? And for the sake of argument (whether true or not) when we say manage we also mean supervise and visa versa Isn't there a real upper limit ?

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

To answer your question Wayne,

No I don't think anyone can effectively manage so many people. I would agree with the max of B school theory/ICS. If you have more than 10 direct reports you will not be able to offer proper guidance, set decent objectives and have a general feeling with what is going on with you team.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Agreed.

So the question needs to be asked why the HR field is using as a metric the number of people you managed, with answers (if multiple choice) including 50 or 100+.

Does company size (people) translate into a harder CFO job than a company of 10 people? That's like saying a $50M company that sells $1M widgets (but is hidden in that $50M revenue number) may or may not be more difficult than the $1M firm that sells $10 widgets.

I'm baffled at the comparatives; one would think they are there for the sake of justification.

Mike Adhikari
Title: Owner
Company:
(Owner, ) |

U.S. President has few hundred direct reports per a staff person.

For industry, I agree with other inputs here.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

That's not completely correct. He has the Cabinet, and certain special assistants/reports such as the NSA and CIA. However, COS runs most of the interference.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I have started the Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership Master series and in the first video his research suggests a 1-5 ratio to be a good leader, 1-10 depending on job duties, so if you lead 5 people who all do the same thing, you can handle leading more than that, but if all five people do different job duties it makes more difficult. I thought this was interesting. Having four direct reports currently and about to add a fifth, and each of them handle a completely different section of the business I am starting to understand what he means.

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

The metric should be changed to efficiency of management much to the prior comments. I have successfully taken over a team of 13 and by simplifying processes reduced the head count to 7 without any stress on the department. If HR only wants a number I would appear to be a poor manager. What direct reports do and the amount of interaction needed per team member should be reviewed much closer than simply a number. This looks like the result of a poorly developed KPI running the rodeo.

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