the art of delegating.
know you can't do it all yourself, you just don't know how not
to. Project management expert Stan Portny offers some sage advice
on the right way to delegate.
being a manager in our less-than-booming economy. You have a
thousand and one tasks on your to-do list, and they're multiplying
exponentially. You know it's time to embrace the D-word - delegate
- but something in you violently resists the idea. You've always
subscribed to the "If you want something done, do it yourself"
school of thought. But now that you're having to do more with
much, much less, you're so overworked and stressed out that you must
curb your "control freak" ways. Question is, how?
management consultant Stan Portny - president of Stanley E. Portny and
Associates, LLC and author of Project Management For Dummies®
(Hungry Minds, Inc., 2001, ISBN: 0-7645-5283-X, $21.99) - has seen this
dilemma many times.
of the people I work with came to their management positions because
they were really good technically," he explains. They're
engineers, researchers, financial analysts. They've never been
trained in business management issues. So naturally, when they're
put in charge of a project, they have a very hard time delegating
authority. Fortunately, there are principles and processes to help
project managers learn to delegate - and I think any type of
manager can benefit from them."
that now, more than ever, managers must get comfortable with
delegating. He offers the following tips to help you do it the
the psychological and emotional pitfalls of delegating.
When someone is accustomed to doing a task himself, he fears that
the person to whom he delegates it may be unable to complete the
tasks to the satisfaction of the key audiences - and he (the
delegator) will be held accountable. Further, he may be forced
to delegate to someone over whom he has no direct authority ... a
distinctly uncomfortable position. Facing up to these
psychological complexities is the first step in successful
assigning tasks, keep the "critical path" firmly in mind.
A critical path is a series of activities on which the
completion date of the entire project hinges. If any one of
these tasks gets delayed, the project itself is delayed. Most
project managers think, I'll keep the critical path tasks for
myself and give the non-critical path tasks to someone else.
But the reality is that you may have to stop what you are
doing in order to deal with problems that arise in the non-critical
camps ... and the completion date gets delayed anyway! The
solution, whenever possible, is to delegate critical path tasks in a
clear, concise manner to a competent person.
the Law of Comparative Advantage. Simply stated, it makes
sense for you to spend your time where you get the biggest bang for
your company's buck. Reserve for yourself the tasks that you
do best and assign the rest to other people. Your ability to
do these secondary tasks better or faster doesn't justify neglecting
the tasks in which you can provide the biggest impact.
the task clearly - it forces structure. Be precise when
communicating the desired outcome to a delegatee. If you ask
someone to simply "write a report," are you prepared to
live with the report you're going to get? You must give
the person a very clear description of what you want him or her to
do. This forces you to think through the project up
front. Consequently, potential problems make themselves early
on, not six months down the road.
- and clarify - the levels of delegating.
1. Get in the know - do some fact-finding for me.
2. Show me how to go - do some fact-finding, formulate some
suggestions, and then we'll talk.
3. Wait until I say go - do all actions as in Levels 1 and 2,
then take action when I say to.
4. Go unless I say no - do all actions as in Levels 1 and 2,
then take action unless I say not to.
5. Go and let me know - take action, and let me know what you
6. Just go - take action, and I don't want to hear about it
relationship between you and the delegatee is the same in all
instances. You, the project manager, are ultimately
responsible to ensure the task is completed successfully. Just
be sure the delegatee knows exactly what's expected of him.
everything in writing. Delegating in a conversation is not
good enough. When you write a memo, you have a paper trail
that proves exactly what you asked the person to do. It
clarifies your instructions and helps you to hold people accountable
for their performance.
the urge to micromanage. Looking over someone's soldier is
an inappropriate way to manage a project. Instead, identify a
series of "checkpoints" you can refer to along the way to
help you measure how the project is going. If you can work out
a way to define what constitutes success, you can start to manage by
output, not by process. If you feel that you must 'check
up" on someone, tell him honestly: "It's not that I don't
trust you, it's simply that I don't have the moment-to-moment
you do ... I just want to stay up to date on what's going on.
to say "thank you." Write a memo thanking the delegatee
for his or her contribution and copy it to his or her boss.
Also, thank the boss for allowing her to participate. This may
sound trivial, but it's amazing what a difference it makes to
acknowledge a person's contribution in this way.
is not just a method for reducing your workload and getting a project
done," says Portny. "It's also a great way to develop
employees and strengthen the fabric of your company."
you give people a sense of autonomy and the chance to work in a new
arena, they'll grow professionally," he says. "This can
only help your company. Consider what happens when a manager
consistently refuses to delegate: if he or she gets sick at a critical
juncture in the project, everything comes to a halt. There's no
one to fill the void. Delegating helps you develop a team of
individuals who can provide back-up whenever necessary. And a
commitment to helping your company prosper is the cornerstone of being a