Are you del­e­gat­ing ef­fec­tively?

As a man­ager, you can’t pos­si­bly do all the tasks needed to keep your ven­ture run­ning smoothly on your own. But how do you choose the right em­ployee to del­e­gate such work to? And how do you del­e­gate with­out mi­cro­manag­ing?

Finweek English Edition - - On The Money - By Amanda Visser

scott Schae­fer, co-au­thor of The Road­side MBA said: “When you are in charge, any­thing that is not specif­i­cally some­body else’s job lands on you, and it is easy to get bogged down.” Del­e­ga­tion is said to be the cure for “over­whelm­ing­ness”.

Most peo­ple find it quite dif­fi­cult to del­e­gate tasks and will make ex­cuses as to why they are not do­ing it. The most com­mon one is that it is eas­ier and quicker to just do the tasks your­self.

Melinda Fouts, an in­ter­na­tional ex­ec­u­tive coach, says peo­ple also fall into a habit of do­ing me­nial tasks that take up their time yet do not re­quire them to ap­ply them­selves.

“This puts you in the realm of cog­ni­tive ease, also known as ‘busy work’. This is a com­mon di­ver­sion from work that re­quires your cog­ni­tive strain and can verge on the heels of pro­cras­ti­na­tion,” she writes in Forbes mag­a­zine.

Ask the right ques­tions

Fouts says del­e­ga­tion and de­vel­op­ment go hand in hand. “When you del­e­gate, you are en­trust­ing work to an­other per­son, usu­ally one less se­nior than your­self. Del­e­gat­ing re­quires trust and faith in the other per­son.”

Man­agers have to ask them­selves a few ques­tions when del­e­gat­ing:

■ Do you know and can you rely on the skills and abil­i­ties of those you del­e­gate to?

■ Are the per­for­mance stan­dards and ex­pec­ta­tions clear and ob­vi­ous?

■ Are there rules and guide­lines to be fol­lowed to en­trust some­one with a task or re­spon­si­bil­ity?

■ Is there too much au­thor­ity given

(or not enough) for the task to be suf­fi­ciently com­pleted?

The au­thors of The Road­side MBA − Schae­fer, Paul Oyer and Michael Mazzeo – say del­e­gat­ing ef­fec­tively re­quires deep think­ing about whether sub­or­di­nates will make good de­ci­sions.

“This means del­e­ga­tion and incentives is­sues are of­ten very tightly linked. It is a hard prob­lem that re­quires a care­ful and con­stant bal­anc­ing act.”

A few years ago the three pro­fes­sors em­barked on a road trip through the US, vis­it­ing small busi­nesses and en­trepreneurs, with the aim of find­ing some “smart tac­tics” to as­sist busi­ness own­ers.

“When del­e­gat­ing, it is never enough to think just about who has in­for­ma­tion that is use­ful for mak­ing good de­ci­sions, it is es­sen­tial to think about the de­ci­sion maker’s incentives to make a good de­ci­sion.”

The owner of a con­crete block man­u­fac­turer with a large ge­o­graph­i­cal foot­print del­e­gated cer­tain de­ci­sions to his plant man­agers to take ad­van­tage of their lo­cal knowl­edge. In this case the owner linked plant prof­its to the pay of his man­agers, which gen­er­ated incentives for the man­agers to use their lo­cal knowl­edge to make good de­ci­sions.

Pit­falls of link­ing prof­its and per­for­mance

Dur­ing the au­thors’ visit to a theme park in Idaho, the owner told them about his strat­egy to cre­ate a theme park where “qual­ity ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions”.

He had the habit of vis­it­ing other theme parks and no­ticed that while peo­ple were queu­ing all day in his ice cream store, a com­peti­tor’s store was vir­tu­ally empty. The rea­son for this was that em­ploy­ees at his store tended to “over­scoop”.

Then, a new gen­eral man­ager started cut­ting costs and saved the owner $600 000 in a year. Un­for­tu­nately, cus­tomers stopped buy­ing ice cream in his park, and it took four years be­fore they re­turned in numbers.

“The story il­lus­trates a com­mon prob­lem with profit as a mea­sure of per­for­mance.” Own­ers care about long-run value, but em­ploy­ees typ­i­cally have shorter time hori­zons. “This means that ty­ing em­ployee pay to ac­count­ing prof­its can en­cour­age them to think too much about the short-run ef­fects of their de­ci­sions.”

Ide­ally, sub­or­di­nates would use the in­for­ma­tion at their dis­posal to make ex­actly the de­ci­sion the owner would have made.

The au­thors also use the ex­am­ple of a com­pany spe­cial­is­ing in IT out­sourc­ing for small busi­nesses to il­lus­trate the im­por­tance of un­der­stand­ing co­or­di­na­tion.

The owner wanted a sales­per­son who could put in more ef­fort when the com­pany had

ex­cess ca­pac­ity but a low sales ef­fort when his tech­ni­cians were swamped.

With co­or­di­na­tion, the per­for­mance of one part of the busi­ness in­flu­enced the ac­tions of an­other part – the owner wanted a sales­per­son who would ad­just his ef­forts in ac­cor­dance with the de­mands on the tech side of the busi­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­fes­sors the stan­dard recipe for del­e­ga­tion – to cut the or­gan­i­sa­tion into pieces, mea­sure the con­tri­bu­tion of each piece to prof­its, and del­e­gate de­ci­sion­mak­ing – can fail when the di­vi­sions need to co­or­di­nate their ac­tions.

What kind of del­e­ga­tor are you?

Ac­cord­ing to HR gen­er­al­ist Natalie Fisher there are two types of del­e­ga­tors. The one type will al­low you to com­plete the as­signed task in any way you wish “as long as you get there on time and within bud­get”.

This is the kind of man­ager peo­ple like, she writes on the web­site Dig­i­tal Vault.

Then there are those man­agers who will walk you through the en­tire process step by step, fo­cus­ing on each de­tail. They be­lieve that their way of do­ing things is the best way and that they are help­ing you by teach­ing you this method. Gen­er­ally, em­ploy­ees don’t like this type of man­ager.

Busi­ness­balls, a free eth­i­cal learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment re­source, says a sim­ple way to del­e­gate ef­fec­tively is to keep in mind the SMARTER acro­nym, which stands for Spe­cific, Mea­sur­able, Agreed, Re­al­is­tic, Time-bound, Eth­i­cal, Recorded.

Del­e­ga­tion is not just a man­age­ment tech­nique for free­ing up the boss’s time.

“As a giver of del­e­gated tasks you must en­sure del­e­ga­tion hap­pens prop­erly. Just as sig­nif­i­cantly, as the re­cip­i­ent of del­e­gated tasks you have the op­por­tu­nity to man­age up­wards and sug­gest im­prove­ments to the del­e­ga­tion process − es­pe­cially if your boss could use the help,” states Busi­ness­balls.

Fisher says it is im­por­tant to recog­nise when a man­ager del­e­gated a job ef­fec­tively. One way to judge whether the man­ager did this well is to see if em­ploy­ees want to do more work for them.

“When you del­e­gate, you are en­trust­ing an­other per­son, usu­ally one less se­nior than your­self. Del­e­gat­ing re­quires trust and faith in the other per­son.”

Scott Schae­fer Au­thor and pro­fes­sor of fi­nance at the Univer­sity of Utah

Melinda Fouts Ex­ec­u­tive coach

Natalie Fisher HR gen­er­al­ist

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