Solving The Delegation Problem

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I recently reached out to my PM Career Coaching group and asked them:

"What is the 1 thing that if you knew how to do it or do it better, it would make a dramatic impact on your life and project management career?"

Steve's response

"Hi Josh

If I could do one thing better consistently is to learn to delegate more, I find that although I do delegate I still end up doing the lions share of the work, which then has a direct effect on the overall project monitoring.

Delegate Results, Not Tasks

Many times, the failure of delegation comes about as a direct consequence of project managers micromanaging tasks.

  • Give them the end goal and some high-level direction
  • Get out of the way and let them decide HOW to carry it out

You'll see better results and a more empowered project staff.  Most people are smart and want to do good work.  Demonstrate your trust in them in a tangible manner and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results in most cases.

Delegate Clearly

When I said ealier to "give them the end goal and some high-level direction" I meant also that you need to be crystal clear about it.  So many of these well-intentioned and hard working people produce results that are other than what you intended.

But it's not their fault.  It's yours most of the time.

People will tend to make assumptions when they aren't completely clear, because they feel asing questions about your direction or end goal might make them look stupid.  It's up to you as the project manager to be crystal clear about what the end result should look like.  Have them articulate it back to you, and on longer tasks check in just to see how they are doing.  Don't micro-manage, but use opportunities for feedback from you to them as a way to course correct along the way.  In this scenario, they are the producers and you are the "customer" of that delegated deliverable, so get a little agile with it.

What advice do you have for Steve and others regarding delegation?

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Posted on: June 13, 2011 09:18 PM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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One technique that has worked for me is to have intermediate deliverables associated with the delegation. Then you link a status check meeting to the intermediate deliverable and it gives you an opportunity to coach further and make sure any mid course corrections take place.

That pretty much depends on what you want to achieve out of the delegation. If you want to give people a chance to learn and practice, then give them as much details and as clear as possible, and if it is their first time doing it, provide more guidance (even holding their hands if necessary) and review their plan with them before executing. Note than providing more guidance is different from micromanaging. If your objective is to get results, then it is important to know your team well - individual strengths and weaknesses. Pick the right person for the job is critical. Give him enough details and freedom to do the job and review in key checkpoints when necessary.

Great points Michael and Wai!

Another thing to take note is delegation involves assignment of responsibility and authority to do the job. However, accountibility still remains with you and not the person that you delegated the job to. One often overlooked point in delegation is assignment of responsibility without empowering the person with enough authority to do the job. This is a classic problem that I still see happening around till these days. Some managers actually fear shifting the authority and decision making power to another person for various reasons like - lack of trust and fear of losing power and control etc. For such managers, I can only pity them for their myopic view.

Great point Wai. Trust and empowerment are requirements for effective delegation!!

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