Delegation

by Phil Manington

Why is delegation so important?

For most of the 20th century, delegation was not an essential skill for managers. Organisations were hierarchical in nature, with a leader at the top and power distributed through successive layers of management. There are two key features of this type of organisation:

  • Close supervisory control is exercised by each management layer
  • Individual career development is achieved by promotion through the layers.

However, businesses have had to change dramatically to stay competitive. Whole layers of management have been stripped out to reduce costs. The result has been flatter structures, with wider spans of control.

This gives you as a manager a major problem: you can no longer exercise the same close supervisory control that your predecessors did (and maybe your boss still tries to do). If you do, you will find yourself working longer and longer hours, but you will still be faced with a steadily increasing backlog of problems and a corresponding drop in productivity and morale in your team.

The solution to these problems is to delegate – not just simple tasks but decision-making and, eventually, whole projects and even changes to working practices.

The rewards of delegating

It takes time to become really good at delegation, but the rewards are enormous.

It has benefits for your people:

  • It encourages them to manage themselves without needing close supervision
  • It provides opportunities for individuals to develop their careers and enrich their jobs, without needing to gain traditional positional power
  • They will become more motivated, self-confident and satisfied in their work.

It has benefits for the organisation:

  • It puts decision making and problem solving at the most appropriate level in the organisation – the lowest level possible
  • This means that it will be done at the least cost by the people who are best equipped to do it. For many organisations, this will be the only way to compete and will make the difference between success and failure.

And, finally, it has benefits for you:

  • There are too many things going on for you to be an expert at all of them. Good delegation allows you to get things done that you couldn’t achieve on your own
  • No matter how good you are, there is a limit to how much one person can do. Delegation increases your productivity many times over
  • The more you delegate, the more you will find your people willing (and able) to contribute to solving your problems, rather than bringing you theirs
  • Don’t be irreplaceable – if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

    Scott Adams
  • It will save you time and will allow you to spend that saving on the things that you need to do – creating a vision, planning how to achieve it, preparing for the future and driving change
  • It will enable you to build a reputation as a manager with a highly motivated, high performing team – someone who not only gets things done, but is continually innovating and improving
  • When you are promoted, you will have successors, already groomed, within your team!