Work Delegation Skills

When you work as part of a team you will often need to have others help you get a task done. In such situations your work delegation skills will be tested. Delegating work may seem to be an easy task but it is not. The fact is often the delegation is not done well. You can avoid learning delegation skills the hard way. Here are some suggestions to improve your work delegation skills

 

Communication skills are important

Good communication skills are important to inform the person undertaking the task properly. Inadequate or ambiguous information will lead to problems.

Remember communications is a two way street. Therefore make sure you are delegating the task to a person who has the necessary skills and knowledge. If your choice of person is not right it will leave the task undone and cause frustration. There may be some incremental knowledge required for the task. You can give it as part of the details of how to get the task done.

Take time to delegate work and to receive work delegated to you

The most common reason for things not going to plan is that work is delegated very casually. And also that delegated work is insufficiently understood. Whether a task is critical or not one should plan to delegate it with sufficient care. If the delegation of the task is done casually then there is a good chance that things will not go as planned. Instead a blame game will start. On the other hand if a task is delegated with care things will likely go as per plan. There will be credit to share. Putting in a little effort while delegating is worth it, it can save you a larger effort later. For tasks that are performed regularly a written step by step instruction document is worth the effort. The one time effort will save the trouble of having to give instructions again and again. Written documents are also better than verbal instructions. They can be reviewed as often as required.

Give detailed instructions

A step by step set of instructions are easier to follow. Some tasks may be long involving several steps. For such tasks it is good to include a method to check whether a step has been performed correctly. You should also plan for choices that may be involved. That is covered in the next segment.

Plan for right choices being made

If choices have to be made, make sure the person doing the task has information on:

  • Where in the course of performing the task will making a judgment be required.
  • On what basis to make the judgment.
  • Preferably, how to verify the right judgment has been made.

It may be in certain cases escalation is required. Have an easy to use means of escalation and clearly stated cases where escalation has to be done. Respond within reasonable time to an escalation request.

Allow the person receiving the information time to review

Give the person receiving the instructions time to review. And then an opportunity to clarify doubts. This will save you from the situation of clarifying doubts half way through the task being done. By then it may have become a pressure situation. You can also anticipate if the person is likely to need clarifications. You can give those clarifications in advance while the person is reviewing the instructions

Monitor the task if possible

If a task is being done for the first time plan to see how things are going midway. It is not always possible to predict what can go wrong. A brief check to see if things are going as expected is useful. It will help nip unexpected problems in the bud.

Respect the individual

Always remember that we depend on others to get difficult tasks done. We must appreciate the contribution of others, even the ones who do relatively simpler tasks. One way to show our appreciation is by informing them adequately. If things do not go as planned look for the underlying reasons and not for whom to blame. It does not help get the task done if you apportion blame. It helps get the task done if you can find out what went wrong and how to set it right. The person assigned the task should be sure there is no unknown uncertainty involved. As that may lead to unexpected blame. The person assigned the task should be confident that the instructions are clear. There will be a better chance then of the task being done well.

Process documents and standard operating procedure

If it is a one off task you can go with verbal communication. If is a more regularly done task you should consider writing a process document. Specially if the task has multiple steps and involves making choices. Writing a process document is a little effort to be done one time, but it will save you a lot of effort later on. You can update the process document as required from time to time. Some tasks may be very important and an undesirable outcome can be a major problem. For such tasks you should go beyond a simple process document. You should set up a standard operating procedure. This should provide for all possible situations that may be encountered. Well conceived and articulated standard operating procedures are important for mission critical tasks.

(content courtesy IIT Kanpur)