INLS 131: MANAGEMENT OF INFORMATION AGENCIES
SECRETS OF DELEGATION
Notes on Delegation. The "secret" of effective delegation is to define:
- the task
- the accountability requirement
- the responsibility being given
- the authority being given.
- Definition of the Task. The task should constitute a "whole," that is, a project for the individual to undertake. It should be worthwhile and relate to the overall mission of the organization. The purpose of delegation is two-fold: to accomplish the task and to develop the employee. Both are important. Some aspects of good task definition are:
- clearly defined outcome(s), e.g., what is the deliverable?
- clear statement of the time frame, e.g., when is the deliverable due?
- specification of the monitoring procedures to be used, e.g., when will review meetings be scheduled? or when are interim reports due?
- indication of how the outcome will be used, e.g., will the result be implemented immediately or will it be sent for higher level? or is it to be used as input to a decision; if so, when will the decision be made?
- Accountability Requirement. The manager should specify what the task parameters are so that the delegatee realizes the limits of his/her authority and will not make unilateral decisions prejudicial to the organization. The delegatee should also learn the manager's expectations for periodic monitoring. The monitoring itself may be delegated, e.g., the individual may be asked to produce regular written reports.
- Responsibility Delegation. The manager remains accountable for the outcome(s) of the task but must confer on the delegatee the power to make decisions needed to ensure success of the project. Once the boundaries of responsibility are clearly defined, the delagatee should be allowed to do the work without any interference. In delegating a task, the following should be made clear (preferably in writing):
- the overall goal of which the task being delegated is a part
- the precise outcome(s) required
- how far the delegatee can interpret events and the extent to which his/her actions must conform to set rules
- the nature of circumstances that will require authorization by a higher level person
- how (and at what intervals) accountability monitoring will take place
- Authority given. Possibly the most frequent complaint made against managers is that they give responsibility without authority, that is, they ask an employee to undertake a task without giving him/her the necessary resources to succeed. At the initiation of the delegation, the manager should transfer to the delagatee the following:
Follow up to a Delegated Task. Good managers use delegation as a way to develop their staff. Feedback on the task is an important responsibility of the manager. This can take place in the following ways:
- the financial resources needed. A major task (think of it as a project) should carry its own budget and the delegatee should have the power to spend money as required by the task without requesting permission from a superior. Because financial accountability remains with the manager, it may be necessary to have periodic reviews of the financial situation to be sure that funds are being spent appropriately and that the amount allocated was sufficient for the task. Typically the reviews take the form of an accounting report submitted on a regular basis.
- the material resources needed, e.g., materials, facilities, technical aids. If resources are to be shared with others, the priority of the particular project should be clarified at the outset. Is the delegatee to wait in a queue for a shared resource? If so, has the time lag been built into the time frame for the project?
- technical support in the form of secretarial or technical assistance. If these support services are shared, the level of priority for the project and/or the number of hours of secretarial or technical help should be specified.
- political power in the form of the authority to require other personnel to participate in the task as the delegator specifies. This enables the delegatee to form committees, to delegate sub-tasks, to sign his/her own letters, to represent the manager to outside agencies. It is poor delegation to review and sign letters prepared by the delegatee or to brief him/her on what to say at meetings with outside agencies.
- public acknowledgement of the work done, e.g., a statement to other people in the organization through a in-house publication or by an announcement at a staff meeting.
- personal thanks for having done the work
- praise for aspects of the work that were particularly well done.
- constructive feedback to improve certain aspects in the next similar task.
- a note in the employee's personnel file.