how to make delegation successful

Project Managers Reveal Tricks That Make Delegation Successful

Ask yourself: What is the last time you re-examined your task delegation checklist and introduced new methods to enroll your team in the work process?

Last year’s Global Leadership Forecast 2018 performed by Ernst & Young has shown that only 14 percent of CEOs have the leadership talent to execute their strategy. According to the researchers, the toughest nut to crack for business owners, in spite of 50 billion annual investments, is to develop “the bench leadership strength” to meet future business goals. Leaders have to learn to redefine competencies.

We either know the formula or we fail. Task delegation, executed efficiently, is a path to a successful work process and a way to offload many of your tasks to be able to do the strategic work.

Project management communities tend to be a goldmine for new methods, techniques, and lessons. I’ve asked PM experts to share their opinions on the subject of task delegation and they came up with up-to-date formulas and methods that will likely help leaders learn to let go of their work in a less painful, but professional way. The approach you’ve chosen to delegate the tasks to your subordinates will influence the relationships between you and your co-workers and create a balance at the workplace.

Creating a Healthy Delegation Environment

Task delegation is the first step to getting work done. As a leader, you need to delegate your power and authority. The question is how to do it in a less painful way. Kiron Bondale, trainer, coach, trusted advisor and speaker in the project management domain, reveals three contributing factors to delegation from his experience.

Successful delegation has three prerequisites — a willingness on the part of the delegator to truly delegate the activity and to do so without micromanaging, the ability on the part of the delegatee to do the work and the wisdom to know when they need to circle back with the delegator, and organizational culture to support efficient and effective delegation.

Many project managers support this opinion. Chris Dees, an experienced IT Engineer and Project Manager agrees that delegation is not delegation if you hover and you will not build your team up with micromanagement. According to Dees,

If you must, you can use iterative activities and tasks to prepare an inexperienced, but worthy subordinate, for heavier responsibilities. Have them shadow you on an activity and then work together on it until you think they are ready for it to become their responsibility, but don’t drag it out. Quality people can do some of their best work when they are trained briefly and “thrown to the wolves” with you or another expert as an advisory “lifeline.” No one experiences real professional development until they are forced to stand on their own two feet.

Structuring Task Delegation Process

The most practical and easy-to-use formula in task delegation is a 20/70/10 rule. Jorge Gamas Ortiz, an executive-level Project Manager and Functional Manager with 11 years of Information Technology (IT) and business management experience, considers this method to be the most effective. According to Ortiz,

Once you have a task defined, spend 20% of the task time with the delegate explaining and defining what to do and what are the expected deliverables. Let the delegate to do the job by themselves the 70% of the expected task duration, and finally the 10% remaining use it to review results, provide feedback and answer questions. You can adapt it according to the delegate experience/knowledge.

Structuring the delegation process this way, you dedicate a sufficient amount of time to prepare an employee to perform the task. These tactics will help the worker understand that you approach task delegation in a disciplined and systematic way, where specific time slots are purpose-built and that you will not stand over their shoulders.

The formula will likely work well in combination with tasks that are more predictable and less volatile, in finance, tech, and manufacturing environments. Ricardo Bethencourt, Electrical Engineer and Project Manager with 28+ year of experience admits that as a leader, project manager has to build the trust, provide the direction, and give the feedback needed to keep the machine well oiled. The above formula is the first step to reach this goal.

Read more: Tools to Effectively Manage the Task Delegation Process

To ensure that the work process doesn’t knock your people off balance, Tony Markatos suggests logically breaking the product down into smallish “chunks” that are loosely coupled and highly cohesive. Without such a logical partitioning, in Markato’s words, the tasks have a tendency to soon get out of balance.

Overcoming the Challenges to Effective Delegation

Participating in such a highly cooperative process, like delegation, is always challenging. Sarah Hoban, a leading opinion maker, strategist, and project management blogger admits that it is important to resist the urge to problem solve on behalf of your team.

If the person to whom you’ve delegated returns to you too often with questions or issues that are within their power to answer, you need to make it clear to them that they are fully capable of answering these questions themselves. Some techniques might involve using the Socratic method (answering a question with a question), leaving the decision up to them, or asking for their recommended solution and why. As a last resort, make yourself temporarily unavailable for questions, so the team has no choice but to forge ahead without you.

Corey Freedman, a collaborative Program and Project Manager is convinced that trust and verification is an accepted approach that makes task delegation less painful. As a PM, Corey needs to trust that his subordinates know how what, and when the task is to be done and done well. Corey believes that the verification is just as important: “PMs must be sure that processes are in place to validate the work is done well and a team member must be comfortable with that process. Sometimes, the process is a peer review, sometimes it is a QA resource, sometimes it is something that I was a PM review.”

Leaders who have learned how to create healthy delegation environments, structure the delegation process, and, eventually, let go of work, can concentrate on their goals without spending too much time in the operational wheel. Are you still running around?

Illustration: Copyright © Oksana Drachkovska


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

June 28, 2019 at 8:32 PM

Excellent article and great ideas to delegate! Thank you!

Iryna Viterreply
June 28, 2019 at 10:18 PM
– In reply to: Jorge

Thanks, Jorge! I think good leaders should have hands-on experience, but they need to know how to delegate as well!

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