The Mechanics of Tasking 1/5 — The insides of Delegation

August 27, 2007 at 6:52 am 1 comment

I’ll be touching on delegating all this week, think of the next five posts as a set piece.

Why focus so much time on delegating? Because it’s Management’s primary tool for doing what we do. If we can do this ‘right’, then to a large degree we’re doing ‘management’ right.

As managers we leverage the actions and abilities of others. That seems obvious, or at least it should be obvious. If I have people reporting to me, that means they rely on me for direction, and guidance in the form of both positive and negative feedback. They also rely on me for training, growth and advancement. These are my foremost responsibilities. I can take on additional tasks only to the extent that they don’t interfere with these responsibilities.

Let’s make this as plain as we can. If an employee needs to speak with me, and if I don’t have time for them, then at that point in time, and until such time as I do meet with that employee, I’ve abdicated my duty/responsibility as a manager. I might be doing something important – but whatever it is I’m doing – (unless I’m involved with another employee) – I’m not being a manager.

Question… out of a 40 hour week – how many hours of that week have you put down the mantle of management? Sadly, most managers are itinerant managers.

A department manager is responsible for executing all tasks assigned to that department. (another statement of the blindingly obvious) To do this, he/she is given a cadre of staff. What each staff member does isn’t so obvious. Skills differ as people differ. There’s also the added complexity that there are tasks associated with those staff, which only the manager can perform.

So… when thinking of ‘delegating’ two questions immediately pop into mind.

1) What tasks can we delegate?
2) Who gets which task?

The first question isn’t too complicated if we’re willing, in the beginning, to make a simple cut. The Manager is responsible for all tasks relating to the management of the staff. That means that he/she is responsible for staff evaluations, salary budgets, hiring, firing, feedback and the like. Simply put, the responsibility of managing the staff resides with the manager. It can’t be doled out to staff members.

As I said, that’s a first simple cut, it’s not cast in stone – and needs modification as the need for grooming a successor becomes a priority. For the moment? The Manager manages, staff do everything else.

Assigning tasks to individuals isn’t obvious. We all possess different skill sets. Assigning someone to a task requiring non-existent skills isn’t an effective strategy. It’s necessary from time to time, and in conjunction with appropriate training, it’s possible. Unless it’s being used as a learning opportunity then it’s best to avoid it when possible.

So? To whom should we assign the tasks need doing? The ones most capable of doing them.

**An Editorial note as I close out this morning’s post…
Writing about management issues is nearly always a strange experience. There’s a drumbeat in my head going, “Obvious! Obvious! Obvious!”, it’s often loud enough to prevent me from writing.

Yet, in counterpoint to the drumbeat, there’s this fanfare of trumpets blaring away, “But you’ve seen this time and time again! Write it! But you’ve seen it time and time again! Write it!” — The trumpets usually, but not always, win out.


Entry filed under: Delegating, Management, Managing, Problem Solving.

Arithmetic for Managers The Mechanics of Tasking 2/5 — My task! Not Yours!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. seesshootsandleaves  |  August 27, 2007 at 10:25 am

    I have a client that I spend a great deal of time with onsite, and it is quite typical to see managers with triple- and quadruple-booking on their calendars (admin assistants post these outside the managerial office so that staff can figure out when their manager might actually be available). The day is filled from beginning to end day after day with no unscheduled time.

    Not much happens there, and the staff are constantly in “wait for decision” mode (as you might expect, these same managers do not trust their staff to proceed without their “input”).

    Fanfare of trumpets? Absolutely! Yes, it’s all obvious. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said again and again. The impending baby boomer retirement will see some of these managerial roles unblocked and perhaps these notes will help the replacements start on the right foot and habituate better management practice.


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