How to Delegate Effectively


How to Delegate Effectively

Delegating effectively is one of the most important things a manager does. The best managers in the world excel at knowing when to delegate, how to delegate, and to whom to delegate. A key to their success – perhaps the most important key – is that they’ve learned how to hire effective people and then delegate specific decision authority to them.  But it’s harder than it sounds, and it’s certainly not easy unless you fully understand certain tricks of the trade. This invaluable tool takes a look at the “dos” and “don’ts” of delegation, and highlights three levels of delegated decisions to help you build your management skills. Download the PDF – “How To Delegate Effectively”

What does it mean to “delegate?”

It means you’ve ascertained that someone has good judgment and that you trust him or her to make good decisions consistently. As a result, you delegate responsibility to make certain, specific decisions on a regular basis. And, as part of the delegation, you acknowledge openly that you are prepared to accept (and support) the decisions that he or she makes. Delegation is the key to building the management capacity of the organization. It’s what enables senior management to focus on longer-range issues while assuring that shorter-term, more tactical decisions are being made well.

Is that all there is to it?

The short answer is: no. Delegation is a subtle art. There are different levels of delegated decisions – and each level carries its own set of expectations and protocols. It is very helpful to distinguish between different levels and to gain a vocabulary to help you communicate clearly to others.

  • Consultative Decision: You take the initiative and make decisions. For example, you take initiative and decide the size and scope of the organization’s annual budget. You most likely consult with many different people in the process. But ultimately, you are the driver of the process and the maker of the decision.
  • Level A Delegated Decision: This is the first level of delegation. You have the authority to make a given decision, but you choose to delegate the responsibility and ask someone else to take the initiative and bring recommendations to you for approval. Using the budget example, you might delegate the responsibility to the Division heads to recommend their Division budgets.
  • Level B Delegated Decision: This means you delegate the responsibility to take action on certain specified matters, but require that you be notified after the fact. The example you might delegate the responsibility to make changes in Division budgets once they are approved, for example within the range of $50K to $100K. (Any change over $100K you might decide to make a Level A delegation.)
  • Level C Delegated Decision: You delegate responsibility to take action on certain matters, without the need to notify you. You might make this kind of delegation with regard to changes in Division budgets under $50K.

The flow of a delegated decision can cascade several levels down. For example, the CEO will likely retain certain responsibilities regarding the annual budget and delegate other decisions down. Division managers will in turn make certain delegations to the next level of Branch managers. The important thing is to spell out and define this flow in writing, so that people can use a well-understood process to consistently make sound decisions.

Two notes:

  • First, in any type of delegated decision, it’s a good idea to consult with your boss if he or she will be affected by the decision or has valuable knowledge to impart. This doesn’t change the delegation. It is simply the smart way to manage “up.” Of course, if your boss can overrule your decision, then it may not be a real delegation, but a “faux” delegation.
  • Second, the level of delegation can change during the course of a decision, especially if there’s a change in circumstances.  Let’s say you are delegated Level B responsibility to hire for a certain job. Then you learn that the owner’s son has decided to apply. That may render it a Level A delegation. It’s up to you to bring these changes in circumstance to your boss so he or she can decide whether to change the level of delegation.

When we help organizations develop a detailed list of delegations, we typically use a table, such as in the following example of a company’s consultative and delegated decisions:

1.

Consultative Decisions

Chief executive: Shall take initiative and make decisions on the following matters after consulting with those deemed appropriate:

  • Strategic plan, business plan
  • Annual budget
  • Hiring and development of division managers
2.

Delegated Decisions

Level A

Division managersShall take initiative and bring the following items to the chief executive for approval before taking action:

  • Recommendations for hiring of branch managers
  • Recommendations for division budgets
  • Recommended changes in budgets over $100K

 

3.

Delegated Decisions

Level B

Division managers: Shall take action on the following matters on their own, but shall be responsible for notifying the chief executive after the fact:

  • Development of branch managers
  • Hiring of program managers
  • Changes in budgets $50K-$100K

 

4.

Delegated Decisions

Level C

Division managers: Are delegated responsibility to deal with the following without notifying the chief executive:

  • Changes in budgets under $50K
  • Development of program managers

 

5.

Delegated
Decisions

Level A

Branch managers: Shall take initiative and bring the following items to the division manager for approval before taking action:

  • Recommended changes in budgets $25K to $50K
  • Recommendations for developing program managers

 

6.

Delegated Decisions

Level B

Branch managers: Shall take action on the following matters on their own, but shall be responsible for notifying the division manager after the fact:

  • Changes in Branch budgets under $25K
  • Hiring of program staff
  • Changes in program direction or work plan that have significant impact on service levels or quality (for both internal and external customers).

 

7.

Delegated Decisions

Level C

Branch managers: Are delegated responsibility to deal with the following without notifying the division manager:

  • Development of program staff
  • Program work plans
  • Changes in program direction or quality that have no discernible impact on service levels or quality (for both internal and external customers).

 

8.

Delegated
Decisions

Level A

Program managers: Shall take initiative and bring the following items to the branch manager for approval before taking action:

  • Recommendations for hiring of program staff
  • Recommendations for development of program staff
  • Program work plans

 

9.

Delegated Decisions

Level B

Program managers: Shall take action on the following matters on their own, but shall be responsible for notifying the branch manager after the fact:

  • Changes in program direction or work plan that have significant impact on service levels or quality (for both internal and external customers).

 

10.

Delegated Decisions

Level C

Program managers: Are delegated responsibility to deal with the following without notifying the branch manager:

  • Changes in program direction or work plan that have no discernible impact on service levels or quality (for both internal and external customers).

 

One could expand this table to show additional layers of delegation, so long as you specified each area of delegated responsibility and the appropriate level of delegation.

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