Delegation is Teaching

by Krishna on November 23, 2009

Jurgen Appelo publishes a list of delegation checklist items from Johanna Rothman and Esther Derby

Is the risk factor of delegating this work adequately addressed? […]
Do the people have the skills to do this particular kind of work?
Do the people have the right format for the work products to use?
Do the people have the tools necessary to be successful?
Do the people know what the results should look like?
Have you set the boundary conditions for the work (e.g. budget, time, resources, quality)? […]

This is all very good, but it seems to be more plain-and-simple managing than delegating. Say you are a manager. You have a project with discrete tasks. You have people to do the tasks. You give them the tasks. The checklist above would be exactly the same.

Delegation is a little different. The tasks that you delegate are the ones that you are best able to handle, but assign to someone who is less capable. They may, in fact, have never done such a task before and so usually do not have the skills or knowledge to do them. So delegation is about teaching another person something new. Therefore, it has more risk than the typical task you assign to your team members.

In the short-term, delegation can be risky and it can result in work of low quality and other problems. In the long run, you will have more capable and well-rounded individuals in your team. So there has to be an element of leadership in delegation that looks at the big picture.

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