Friday, February 23, 2024

Leadership: Delegation

Delegate your tasks for high productivity


It is of utmost importance in management to subdivide tasks to subordinates in a manner that would provide maximum productivity. This is not always easy as the risk is always there that the subordinate will not be able to complete the task to the same high standards that the manager would have done himself. Yet it is of cardinal importance that this is done, otherwise, the manager would burn himself out trying to do everything himself.

Definition of Delegation

Delegation is the allocation of duties and tasks to subordinates, including the responsibility, authority and accountability that would enable them to successfully fulfil those duties according to predetermined standards.

Responsibility and its relevance to delegation

Responsibility refers to the duties of a person in terms of his post and the work allocated to him. The work need not necessarily be done by the person himself; he may delegate some of it with its attendant responsibility, but, in the final instance, he is responsible for the execution of the work.

Authority and its relevance to delegation

It can be defined as the sum of the rights and powers assigned to a position by which a person has to carry out and complete certain actions. Time is wasted when people must go to their superiors for every decision.

Accountability and its relevance to delegation

Accountability refers to the person’s duty to give an account of having executed his work in terms of set criteria and determined standards – in other words, whether the work has been satisfactorily completed. This means that if a person has responsibility and authority, he is responsible to his head to complete the task satisfactorily. In spite of the fact that delegation means that responsibility and authority are entrusted, the leader (delegator) remains primarily responsible and accountable for all activities as well as their execution.

For example:

The leader might be held accountable to his boss (manager), but it is the leader’s prerogative to delegate this responsibility to one of his team members – and also grant the team member the authority to take any steps needed to do that task. If the team member were to misuse this authority, the leader might discipline the team member for failing by discharging the team member’s responsibility. But the leader will still be held accountable to the manager (and might be subjected to discipline) for what had happened – no matter who was at fault.

Accountability is created, not delegated. You can entrust (delegate) parts of your work (responsibility) and decision-making (authority) to others, but you cannot entrust to others your obligation (accountability) to see that work is done and the necessary decisions that are made are up to standard.

The following principles of delegation should be considered

The delegation principle of span of control

One can only delegate confidently if the person to whom one delegated, can handle the work. It is important that there should be certain guidelines for delegation, like clearly formulated goals, understanding of what is expected.

The delegation principle of willingness and proficiency

A task should not be delegated to a person who is unwilling or not qualified to complete it successfully.

The delegation principle of unity of command

If a person is responsible to or has to report back to more than one person, confusion arises.

The delegation principle of corresponding authority

The authority given to a person should be related (and be of the same kind) to the responsibility delegated to him.

The delegation principle of accountability

Individuals and not groups are accountable for the results. Errors can be pinpointed quickly for corrective action steps.

Requirements for effective delegation

  • A good knowledge of the process of delegation.

  • The right attitude on the part of the leader.

  • Willingness to entrust responsibility and to transfer authority to subordinates.

  • Willingness to delegate in order to strengthen the organization by training replacements in all facets of the work.

  • Willingness to allow subordinates to make decisions.

  • Knowledge of the difference between the allocation of work and delegation.

  • The realization that delegation begins with simple steps.

  • The realization of the need for a set of controls to ensure the effectiveness of delegation.

  • The realization that it is human to make mistakes and that subordinates can sometimes make the wrong decisions.

  • An appreciation for the difference between operating and management work.

  • A knowledge that the subordinate is well trained to take the responsibility and authority of the position.

  • A knowledge of what to delegate and how much.

Effective delegation requires the leader to:

  • Know the qualifications of his subordinates.

  • Have full trust in his subordinates.

  • Desire constantly to lead his subordinates and to know and appreciate with satisfaction that the subordinates can do work as well or better than he can.

  • Train the subordinates to efficiency and effectiveness.

The process of delegation. Leaders should:

Define the objectives

The objectives of what should be done and why it should be done must be known to the group and the leader. If the worker knows that the work he is doing is important and contributes to the success of the organisation and where it fits into the overall pattern, he will perform his job with greater effectiveness and enthusiasm.

Determine and define responsibility, authority and accountability

Spell out precisely what is to be done and specify this in terms of limits. Outline the limits of authority within which he can make any decisions that he feels necessary.

Motivate subordinates

For effective delegation, motivate the subordinate to do the work willingly and with enthusiasm.

Clarify performance standards

Accountability must be based on clear, understandable and measurable performance standards. Plans must be understood and accepted by the people who report to us. Ensure sound objectives programmes and budgets to guide subordinates.

Use the doctrine of completed work

A task or assignment/work is given to a person. He must know that it is expected of him to complete the whole task, or find a solution to the problem and make the necessary recommendations without the help of the superior. He must be an achiever, a doer, a person who gets things done completely. It is open for him to get advice and support.

Provide training and retraining

Retrain for new demands. Subordinates must be trained to accept work and do it. Leaders must be trained to delegate work completely. A good knowledge is required for:

  • setting of work standards;

  • evaluating work done;

  • counseling;

  • training methods; and

  • structuring of jobs.

Determine suitable delegation controls

The leader who delegates work must be in a position to provide his immediate superior readily with accurate reports on the progress of the work being done.

What to include in your delegation

While there are limits to what you can safely delegate, you can feel free in assigning to others all technical work possible and all of the routine and detail work of managing.

What to exclude from your delegation

You can safely delegate everything but the work and the authority for which only you have the perspective to do. You cannot safely delegate final management decisions (on overall operating problems) and work which subordinated cannot perform effectively.

Responsibility and accountability cannot be delegated. Although work was delegated the superior still retains the responsibility and accountability.

Reasons for failure of delegation

Delegation can fail if the junior is incapable of making the decisions required of him through insufficient experience and insufficient knowledge.

Delegation can fail if the authority to control resources and execute decisions is not commensurate with the responsibility.

Delegation can fail if the requirements are not made clear, or fully understood and accepted.

Delegation can fail if the consequences of success or failure are not appreciated for the rest of the job, or organization and for themselves.

Delegation can fail if check points are not established so that errors could be detected in time.

Delegation can fail if the relationship between manager and juniors is one of suspicion rather than trust. It is therefore necessary that a manager should know and understand his job of his junior and how he spends his time, and what resources are at his disposal.

Delegation can fail if the leader does not know the strengths and weaknesses of his subordinate. He does not know what to delegate. Operating work should be delegated as far as possible. Retain only the specialist work you supervise, which only you can do, and work which cannot be done by a subordinate. The general rule is to include everything possible relating to management work in your delegation except for the initiation and final decision. Routine and detail work must be included in your delegation as much as possible. Final management decisions and overall operating problems should be excluded from the delegation process.

Delegation can fail if the manager does not back-up his subordinate or allows delegation back to himself.