Delegation. Does the word evoke strong, perhaps other-than-positive, emotions in you? If it does, you’re not alone. If there is a single most misunderstood or misused concept in business, the delegation process is the leading candidate.

Repairing or refining how delegation works in an organization may be the biggest bang-for-the-buck in organizational management. If you get it right, your stakeholders and shareholders will thank you.

Delegation defined

Delegation is the act of assigning responsibility and resources for a task, holding or process to a subordinate. In effect, you sublet your work. Because they remain your subordinate, the task ultimately remains your responsibility. Since you chose to delegate this to them, you proactively decided they could handle the situation.

Why bother delegating at all? Because you can’t be everywhere, simultaneously. In addition, your employee may be more skilled at the task than you are. Proper delegation lowers total organizational workload and improves the quality of the output. Invest the new found profits wisely.

Delegation process

The delegation process itself is a simple series of steps:

  1. Communicate the task, holding or responsibility.
  2. Give the resources needed to accomplish the task.
  3. Compare results to expectations then adjust.

You could say it this way:

  1. “This is your new responsibility.”
  2. “Here is what you’ll need to be successful.”
  3. “Let’s agree on a follow-up schedule or mechanism.”

Don’t be fooled by the surface simplicity. Skillfully accomplishing the three steps is the core competence of management itself. Don’t worry: a good-faith effort to follow the process will usually provide good results.

Superior organizations and managers work hard at refining and honing their delegations. Delegation is a “do-loop” process. Any adjustments in Step 3 redefine the delegation and the parties restart at Step1.

Delegation refinement

The delegation is rarely, if ever, static. The delegatee grows in skills or capacity. The delegator becomes more comfortable or skillful with the situation. The task, holding or process itself changes. The original delegation eventually changes altogether.

The constant evolution is not a bad thing. The subordinate becomes a better employee. The manager gains as well. The task becomes more valuable, or easier to administrate, or both.

Delegation context

Delegation is fundamentally a tool to get the work done. Thankfully, it is also a development mechanism. Give and review assignments with an eye towards improving the employee or situation. As a subordinate’s skills and abilities expand, they in turn may be able to successfully delegate to others.

Delegation is less a supervision tool, and more a management technique. A manager who really wants delegation to work needs to be prepared to sacrifice some measure of direct control. Delegation means you will not know, with absolute certainty, every minute of everyday. The job will have someone else’s fingerprints and signature look.

They is likely a good thing. Your employees may have better skills on a specific task than you do. The differences in how you would get it done are trivial, considering the other things you should be doing.

Delegation core

That doesn’t mean you should not stay reasonably informed about the results and circumstances. You have the prerogative to direct some of the outcomes. That’s why feedback is the core of the process.

Responsible management demands that you follow-up on the employee and the task. The system of monitoring, should be carefully matched to the situation. Veteran staff should need less supervision than rookie trainees. Simple tasks (set the table) need less oversight than complex projects (perform vascular surgery).

Even if Step 1) and Step 2) are executed imperfectly, Step 3) will eventually repair the situation. Evaluate and adjust. Repeat as needed.

Slow delegation

Once the delegation process in your organization is mature and robust, you’ll be on your way to an excellent organization. Management will more thoughtfully assign tasks. The tasks will run better. Meeting time and horrible surprises will both go down. What are you going to do with all your new free time?

The process steps are few and simple, but they demand skill and discipline to be done well. Take your time. The results will be worth it.

This guest article was contributed by Desertcat.

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