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Five Steps to Successful Project Delegation

May 22, 2008
The Practice of Delegation

Not long ago I was working at my desk and realized that it was so late that it was actually the regular work day for my team in Asia. Unfortunately, this was common. I had begun working so many hours, that I was actually working two shifts (US and Asia). I was growing increasingly frustrated with the project and with my team. The team however was bewildered by my reaction. They were doing everything I assigned to them. What could I be upset about?

What indeed! I had fallen into an all too common trap. While I thought I was delegating, I was actually just assigning tasks and retaining ownership of everything. I needed to make big changes - and fast. I started to look at the times projects worked, seemingly without my intervention and when they didn't. The solution jumped out clearly. I needed to delegate! Below are the five steps to successful delegation.

1. First, you must clearly define the task. What is it that needs to happen? What is your desired result?

2. Second, select the team or the individual that you want to accomplish this result.

3. Third, tell the individual what's being delegated to them. It's also important to let other people in the organization know that this person is now responsible for the task, so they know not to keep coming to you about it.

4. Maintain a monitoring system, so you can ensure that they're not getting off-track.

5. After the task is done, complete a final review. Look at lessons learned and ways to improve moving forward.

These five steps are logical enough - the key is putting them into practice. I started with the project that caused the most work hours for me. I looked at my Asia team to determine who had the ability to lead the team on-site, then, before assigning the team member the task, I set clear objectives and goals. Successful delegation requires a clear end result.

I selected Helen for the role. She had strong skills and a willingness (and band-width) to take on additional responsibilities. After I determined the right person, I knew I had to provide the authority to the individual, so that she could actually achieve it. This is an important point. Don't retain the authority and then expect her to deliver. If necessary, you need to teach her how to do it. This might be a training method. You can't just delegate it and walk away. You also need to ensure the rest of the team understands this shift in ownership.

After you've truly delegated, you need to monitor the progress. Look at the plan. Make sure that there's some scheduled goals and meetings to ensure that the tasks are being met. I usually do this with in 1:1 meeting. This is a schedule time for us to talk about anything that may be of concern as well as upcoming due dates and milestones. These informal discussions can provide an excellent framework for feedback. If necessary, provide some direction. Give your team the objectives and the clear goals to keep them on track. Provide encouragement. You want to boost morale and make sure that people are making progress going forward. A good way to do this is by monitoring with milestones. A subtle but effective form of monitoring is using these milestones.

Often, it helps to create a series of small, interim deliverables that will serve as checks-and-balances on the progress of a larger task. These milestones can then be used as a basis for progress reports (1:1 sessions).

What happens when you do have problems? You need to learn to manage by exception. When it comes to delegating, you need to keep it organized. Make sure you know where they are and that they know and can track their milestones. In my case, when Helen started slipping on a key deliverable, we worked closely together until she was back on track. It was difficult for me, personally, because I just wanted to fix it. In the short term, it would have been much faster to simply fix it and hand it back. However, I wanted Helen to retain authority over the Asia team - this required her to find the solution and implement it. How?

The key is developing a structure. If the people you're delegating to are having trouble, help them, train them. Make sure that they understand that if they run into a problem, they can contact you. This extra effort should be short term and the long term benefits are many. They include not only the deliverable at risk, but the entire delegated ownership and who knows - maybe bigger and better projects in the future. With Helen, that was the case. She overcame the short term concern and the project went on to deliver on time. Even better, I was back to just working the US shift!

Ultimately, performance and deliverables are in your control. Are you ready to make it happen? Go to http://www.delegatesuccess.com and take the readiness quiz.
About the Author
90% of managers delegate, but only 5% of these delegated tasks are completed without hands-on support from management. Take this quick quiz at delegatesuccess.com to determine what type of delegation style you have. Get your projects done without working long hours! Lisa Symons has over twelve years experience in global IT management.
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