May 3, 2014

Team Management

What is the Delegation or How to Achieve Outstanding Results with Ordinary Employees

By Alexander Sergeev

Good managers make others work,

                                                                                                                 bad managers work on their own.

The heads of large companies often complain about the lack of qualified staff and the necessity of doing everything on their own. It happens because we’ve never been taught to delegate our powers.

Although the leaders want to delegate tasks to employees, they’re still afraid. They often argue this as follows: “An explanation of what and how should be done takes much more time”, “I can handle it much better and faster”, “If my employee flub, I will be responsible for that!”, “I’ll delegate this job to my employee today and he will take my place in six month” and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, thebmost of the material on the delegation is based on such advice as “trust the people”, “don’t be afraid to give them responsibility”, “be creative”, “motivate on the result”.

This article contains the delegation technology, based on the successful experience of a large number of Russian and Western companies.

What is the delegation? The delegation means transfer of an assignment or a project from one person to another and the person’s consent to carry it out. This is one of the most important qualities of an efficiently operating manager. The delegator (i.e. the one who delegates) should be able to plan the job and organize the workflow in such a way to achieve goals as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Benefits of the delegation. The delegation can bring short-term and long-term benefits to you, your staff and your organization.

For you. You can reduce the workload if you pass the job to people who are qualified enough to do it. This will increase the amount of time you can spend on the projects that really require your direct involvement.

For your staff. Helps to develop new and existing skills. Reinforces the sense of joint achievement. Increases the level of trust and communication between the staff. Helps to achieve the goal if it requires teamwork.

For your organization. Saves money due to the proper distribution of tasks. Increases productivity by the economical consumption of resources.

Arguments against the delegation:

  • “I will do it faster and better myself”. Perhaps, but your goal is to support your staff in fulfilling the tasks.
  • “There is no competent person among my employees”. Start with a small delegation of tasks that will help your employee to achieve competence.
  • “It’s much easier to perform it myself than to organize, explain and monitor the implementation”. You don’t look at the things in perspective. Later you will get a return on the time spent and the next time your employees will be more responsible in performing tasks.
  • “I like to do things in my own way”. Focus not only on the control of the performance of the tasks, but also on the explanation of your preferences and quality standards. It will pay off in future.
  • “My colleagues believe that the manager must take all decisions and solve all the problems”. Change the mind. Make it clear that your job is to teach the staff to make decisions on their own and that it is the possibility to perform new and interesting work.

The delegation is conducted improperly if you notice some points from the following list of “alarming signs”:

  • The inbox is always full. You are constantly working overtime to fulfill the tasks that “only you can afford”.
  • You’re often interrupted by requests to explain the task.
  • The delegated tasks are not completed on time.
  • You often interfere with the tasks that you have delegated.
  • Low morale and high staff turnover.
  • Your staff doesn’t want to take responsibility for the tasks that you delegate.

The most successful managers adhere to the following guidelines of effective delegation:

  • Explain to the employees that they should assist you in the implementation of new projects more actively. The sense of cooperation is an important part of the delegation.
  • Try not to delegate only routine and complex work to the employees. Delegate projects and assignments that may be interesting for them.
  • Delegate responsibilities while giving the employee the opportunity to move up the career ladder.
  • Delegate responsibilities to people, whose opinion and competence you trust. Your ability to choose the right person is reflected in your ability to set goals and make decisions.
  • Create a clear line of support for feedback.
  • Clearly define the objectives, expected outcome and the measure of success to minimize the loss of time and resources and be sure that the job is completed successfully.

Approach to the delegation

The delegation can be done in several ways. It’s usually better to give the whole job to one person as it stimulates the initiative in solving problems. If the person later turns for help to the rest of the staff, the responsibility for the outcome lies on him.

  • Delegation of tasks. This is the simplest approach, which involves the delegation of certain tasks or parts of tasks to your employees (to write a report, to plan meeting).
  • Delegation of project. The project includes a group of tasks aimed at achieving a particular goal. It has a wide margin of delegation and the staff performing these tasks take greater responsibility (to make up a manual, a handbook, to conduct customer survey, training on the new computer software or information system).
  • Delegation of functions. This approach is for managers with a large number of employees. “Function” is a group of tasks or projects that relate to a single activity, such as sales, marketing or training. In this model the function is transferred to one employee who provides timely information.

Step by step algorithm of the delegation

  1. Definition of goals and objectives for the delegation

You can weigh the problem determining its importance/urgency (the good old “Eisenhower matrix”). To determine the importance you can use faithful and reliable “Pareto rule” (20% of people drink 80% of beer). In other words, you have to assess how the performance of this or that task will contribute to the final result. Urgency is an assessment of how the problem is close to its completion deadline. It is recommended to delegate tasks with a high urgency and low/medium level of importance, as well as with low importance and low urgency. It helps to get rid of the hectic activity and “force majeure” which appear largely due to the fact that managers don’t take time to delegate tasks of such categories as “important, but not urgent”. They accumulate and sooner or later arise during the entire front and begin a massive offensive becoming the important and urgent tasks when the manager has even no time to delegate them.

To assess the delegated tasks it is also necessary to apply such a criteria as risk assessment. How big is the risk, what degree of responsibility and authority planned if there is someone to put this task?

  1. Timing

For any problem it is necessary to clearly define the terms of its implementation. Otherwise the work turns into a gaseous state and tends to fill all the available amount of free time. It is particularly important to set clear deadlines to the executor of the task. And it’s better to establish the timing of the problem in a margin of at least 10-15 % of the terms that specifies the performer. This will allow you to have a certain time lag if the performer delays the execution of tasks due to some reasons.

  1. Selection of the performer

This is the answer to the question “Who”? It is also the assessment of the possibility of the delegation of this or that task. The performer must be chosen in accordance with the presence of competence, experience, successful solutions to similar problems.

You can use the following gradation of the performers:

  • Ace. It is professional in the business. Highly competent specialist, he can safely allocate challenges. All you have to do is to help him in some issues.
  • King. A specialist. You can delegate him tasks from the category “should be delegated”. You only need to support and encourage him.
  • Jack. Capable enough, but not experienced. This category requires training and regular feedback on the performed tasks.
  • Joker. He usually has a special, extraordinary ability. Joker can assign “burning” issues, something very specific or complex.
  1. Setting goals and objectives to the performer

You need to clearly and unambiguously articulate a common goal to the performer and then distribute it to the individual tasks, while each task should provide a concrete result. It is possible to follow the time-tested requirements SMART: objectives should be specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic and time-bound.

It’s nice to have a list of tasks that can be passed to the performer or make sure that he has thoroughly and adequately documented everything and always check he understood the goals and objectives and accepted them for the execution. The performer often unquestioningly accepts the task and then it turns out that either he did not understand what and how should be done, or is overloaded so much that physically has no time to perform the task.

  1. Planning

After the performer took the task, it is necessary to require a compilation of the schedule, program, stages of the adopted problem (if the problem is complex). This work is a part of the delegation procedure and should be performed by the executor. The realism and pithiness of the plan is a success criteria of the transmission of the problem, because then you can be sure that the performer understands what and how will he do, in what order and what resources he needs.

In the allocation of general tasks across the multiple performers, decide who is responsible for what in the long term and in what time frame certain tasks must be resolved in order not to slow down the overall solution.

  1. Delegation

The employee must clearly understand what rights, resources and means he has to accomplish the task. You must determine the order of how the decisions will be made in the framework of the task, how the procedure of handling the existing resources will be organized, what is the procedure of raising the additional funds, the duration of the delegation of the specific powers.

  1. Incitation

The delegation procedure itself has the motivating force. It is important that new problems are not perceived by the employees as an increase in the volume of work but as a recognition of the success and merit, improvement of the status. If there is a desire to further reward the employee for the successful execution of the task, it is necessary to start to negotiate and secure the ways (cash benefits, career development etc.) and the order to stimulate their implementation.

  1. Control

It is important to clearly define and agree with the performer the criteria for success at the even start of the formulation of the problem. It is also important to determine in advance the form of current control (how and how often will the employee inform you on the tasks). The employee should know in advance about the possible sanctions for missed deadlines, budget overruns and poor performance of the task. The manager must clearly specify in advance the procedure of acceptance of the work performed. It is desirable to document it.

The delegation does not exclude but rather suggests that the head is closely watching the performance of delegated tasks, advises and adjusts its execution. The delegation contains a developmental function and promotes the formation of a strong reserve personnel and increase their competence.

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