Project Management: How to Decide What to Delegate
To be an effective project manager, you must learn to delegate — that is, get the help and support of your project’s team members. Knowing why you delegate helps you determine which tasks to turn over to others. You delegate authority for four reasons:
To free yourself up to do other tasks
To have the most qualified person make decisions
To get another qualified person’s perspective on an issue
To develop another person’s ability to handle additional assignments prudently and successfully
Although the potential benefits of delegating can be significant, not every task can or should be delegated. Consider the following guidelines when deciding which tasks are appropriate candidates for delegation:
Assign yourself to the tasks that you do best: Suppose you’re the best lawyer in town and there’s more demand for your services at a fee of $500 per hour than you can meet. Suppose also that you can type twice as fast as the next fastest typist in town, who charges $200 per hour. Should you type all your own legal briefs?
The answer is no. If you spend an hour typing, you’d save the $400 you’d have to pay the typist (who’d require two hours at a cost of $200 per hour to do the same work). However, if you spend the same one hour providing legal services, you’d earn $500, which would allow you to pay the typist $400 for the work and still have $100 left over.
If possible, assign yourself to tasks that aren’t on a project’s critical path: A delay on any activity on a project’s critical path pushes back the estimated date for project completion. Therefore, when you have to stop working on a task that’s on your project’s critical path to deal with problems on another task, you immediately delay the entire project.
Don’t assign other people to work on a task that you can’t clearly describe: The time you save by not working on the task is more than offset by the time you spend answering questions and continually redirecting the person to whom you’ve assigned the unclear task.
Delegation doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, where you either make all decisions yourself or you withdraw from the situation entirely. Consider the following six degrees of delegation, each of which builds on and extends the ones that come before it:
Get in the know: Get the facts and bring them to me for further action.
Show me the way to go: Develop alternative actions to take based on the facts you’ve found.
Go when I say so: Be prepared to take one or more of the actions you’ve proposed, but don’t do anything until I say so.
Go unless I say no: Tell me what you propose to do and when, and take your recommended actions unless I tell you otherwise.
How’d it go: Analyze the situation, develop a course of action, take action, and let me know the results.
Just go: Here’s a situation; deal with it.
Each level of delegation entails some degree of independent authority.
You can delegate authority, but you can only share responsibility. You can completely transfer your decision-making power to someone else so she can make the decisions with no involvement or approval from you. However, when another person agrees to assume a responsibility of yours, you’re still obligated to ensure that she achieves the desired results.