I would like advice on the maximum number of reports a manager should have. I currently have 14, i am responsible for £14m of construction related works on various sites.

RichRuh's picture

I have 11, which is at least 3 too many (I'm working on it...).

However, I suspect the number will vary for each individual, depending on your other responsibilities.

Mark's picture

Should is usually a VERY bad word in management.

I know a manager who succeeds brilliantly with 29, one on ones and all. Yes, you read that right.

It's far too dependent upon industry, experience, skill base of the team.

Managers who do one on ones can actually handle MORE directs than those who don't do them.



fcch_mngtools's picture

I agree with Mark ... Different industries and organisations add too many variables.

Example, ... I used to have +20 DR's

(even before finding Manager-Tools) I did sort of a 1:1 every 2 weeks - 30 minutes each. I rotated to 10 per week. Instead of managing projects I only managed the people. The projects were theirs.

New job now, new company ... I only have 3-4 DR's (in a matrix). Different technical competency levels here too as I'm making my people to really push the envelope (technically and intellectually). I'm trying to off load 1 DR to another manager so I can do this right.


aspiringceo's picture

I dont think there is such a thing as a minimum or maximum nunber but there is an optimum number which as other posts have pointed out is dependant on your role. I have had as little as 2 directs and as many as 21, these days I have 6 and thats enough for my present role.

pmoriarty's picture

AT one time, I had 22 directs. For me, it was horrible. Since then, I find that much beyond 10 directs and I start spending more time as dealing with the associated administrative overhead than I do actually managing the people.

Hexemom's picture

I am not in the business world, but in education. I am an elementary school administrator and have up to 100 staff members working in my building.

[b]I am curious what the operational definition of "direct reports" is for you business folks.[/b] :?:

I'd love to be able to implement many of the great things I am learning from manager tools, especially the O3s . . . but I am worried that with the amount of staff I have they'd be spaced out so far it would be worthless. If you're talking of DR as people who specifically bring in results (aka student achievement) that would be our actual teachers, a total of 65 people.

juliahhavener's picture

Direct reports are those who report directly to you. A general guideline might be that if you are responsible for their individual coaching and development and annual reviews, then they are a direct report. Your teachers may not be your DR's at all if they report to individual department heads and those department heads are then responsible to YOU.

I suspect this is no different for you depending on the type of school. Do you have department heads or does everyone within the building report directly to you?

Hexemom's picture

Thanks for the definition. That was what I figured DRs were. I work in an elementary school which does not have department heads (that's typically a middle school and high school position). Classroom teachers are formally evauated every year during their first three years and then once every three years after that. I typically have 20 formal evaluations to do each year of classroom teachers. Then there are the classified employees who are teacher assistants or secretaries and I conduc their evaulations every year. Most of the teacher assistants work for the teachers so those are O3s I probably don't need to have.

So, with that being said, any thoughts on how often I should be conducting O3s with so many people? I don't think that weekly would be feasible. Of course, then there is the Teacher's Union which tightens my opportunities even further. Any body have experience dealing with unions?????? :cry:

Thanks for your help!

vinnie2k's picture

My rule of thumb is: "4 to 6, maybe 7, never 8".

That goes for projects, DRs, objectives, wives (just kidding).

Then you have exceptions (and exceptional people), but I'm wondering if the person in Mark's example wouldn't be even better with less than 29 DRs.

juliahhavener's picture

I don't have union experience, though I know that some can truly limit the level of communication open to you. From some recent discussions I've had on this topic, you will want to be very clear about what options you do have. And...I still believe more communication is better at the end of the day.

You may want/need to space that out over 3-5 weeks depending on your overall availability and their availability. I think you're going to have a much greater challenge doing this well because of the inherent scheduling problems that occur if your DR is in a classroom 7 out of 8 hours a day. The good news is that after the first session, you should be able to keep this to 30 minutes per person with less than 2 minutes' prep time each. That's about 33 hours total - so weekly won't work, but every 3rd week may if you can swing the physical scheduling.

Mark's picture


The question isn't whether the person with 29 might be more effective with less - the question is, how much more effective - relative to cost - the TWENTY NINE would be with more managers.

That is to say, if the young lady who supervises 29 makes 100K, and is quite good, if you cut her team in half and she improves her effectiveness by 30% - which is huge and surely you wouldn't suggest that she could double her value - how much better would the other 29 be, with an increased cost of another manager at 100K?

It's always a cost benefit equation.


vinnie2k's picture

It is.

The problem is that the cost side of the equation is always very easy to compute, whereas the benefits are usually a lot less easy to figure out, especially in dollars.

Go figure out the value of having good strong relationships with your directs. It is hard with 29 people - I have 29 people in my family here in the US and I can't even have a strong relationship with them! Because the cost of the added manager is a direct hit on the bottom line, we tend to think it is OK to continue having her with 29 DRs because hey, it does work like that, doesn't it?

It reminds me of people who never say no to quick & dirty solutions to issues, and then complain that their boss never gives them money for longer term investments/projects. Guess what? The job is getting done with the quick & dirty stuff, why should s/he invest money in changing something that works?

Instead of calling them cost/benefits analyses, we should call them more cost / less cost analyses :-)

pmoriarty's picture

Based on the blog entry below comparing the work environments at Microsoft & Google, it looks like some Google managers have 100 direct reports (item #4 in the note)! That boggles my mind!