Delegation of authority is the process of assigning work to another person along with the appropriate level of authority to complete the work. Delegation typically flows from management to their direct and indirect reports. This is a basic management technique that allows for efficiency, resilience and development of team members. The following are illustrative examples of delegation of authority.
1. FunctionDelegation of an entire organizational function such as an IT manager who assigns a software developer to be the administrator of a system. This requires the authority to change the system, add users and respond to user inquiries and requests.Delegation of a decision such as an executive manager who delegates decision making for an office redesign project to a committee of five individuals. In this case, the manager may direct requests to sign off on design decisions to the chairperson of the committee.
A Chief Information Officer grants an IT director the authority to negotiate contracts with IT infrastructure partners with final sign off authority remaining with the CIO.The authority to develop and/or implement a strategy. For example, a creative director who delegates a promotional campaign to a marketing analyst. This may include authority to manage a team and spend a predefined budget.
5. Research & AnalysisA mission to research something and return with a report or recommendation. For example, the Head of Sales asks a sales associate to generate a list of large customer accounts that are at risk of canceling their service. The sales associate states they are acting on behalf of the Head of Sales in requests for the meetings and resources required to complete this request. If meetings or resources are refused, she escalates to the Head of Sales.
6. ProcessesDelegation of a business process. For example, an IT director who needs to hire 14 software developers delegates the process of short listing candidates to two senior developers.
7. Project SponsorshipAn operations manager sponsors an IT project to improve several systems. The manager delegates the project sponsor role to a senior operations analyst who works with the project team to develop requirements and clear issues. This requires the full authority of the operations manager as the analyst may have to overrule objections and push people for decisions and work products.
Accountability is the duty to answer for success and failure. Responsibility is the duty to complete work diligently. Responsibility can be delegated, accountability can't be delegated. As such, when you delegate something you don't have to do the work but you remain accountable for results.
Effective DelegationDelegation requires that goals and delegated authority be clearly communicated and agreed to all involved in the work. This is followed by monitoring to step in and help the person doing the work if it looks like they may fail. At the end, it is helpful to formally or informally assess the results to give the person performance feedback. When work is a success, share the credit. Where it fails, accept accountability.
Delegation vs Setting Up To FailDelegation is normally a way to allow employees to grow into new roles. For example, a manager who delegates management tasks to a senior employee may help that employee to grow into a management position. It is also possible for delegation to end up hurting an individual's career if the assignment is too difficult, goals unclear or if you fail to support them to accomplish the delegated work. This is known as setting the person up to fail.
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