Delegating tasks to another party is a straightforward concept which can have dramatic results on productivity. So why do we keep delaying such a good thing?
The concept is simple; by offloading specific tasks to be performed by another person or party, you're able to utilize the time and effort saved for more important objectives. Delegation has been around forever. Heck, it's how companies functions in the first place; the business has tasks which need done to keep it operating, so it hands them over to be executed by other people- the company's employees. Delegation is a central tenet which makes the business world go round.
So if we understand the rationale and impact delegation can have, why are we so resistant to handing over our own tasks?
Our unwillingness to delegate can be broken down into 3 separate barriers- Psychological, Organizational, and Technical. By examining your hesitation to delegate as related to these three factors, you can then begin to identify the real reason you're not leveraging such a fundamental work-management strategy to help you breakthrough barriers towards greater productivity.
The primary barrier creating our delegation hesitation is all inside our head, literally. Delegating tasks to another party is a skill which must be developed, and it's not always comfortable getting started.
Our insistence that it would simply be easier to do the work ourselves is the top mind trick preventing us from starting to delegate. Sure, it's easier to maintain the status quo and just keep doing it yourself, but how much more value could you be delivering if your time was more focused on higher value objectives? And what is really needed to get another person set up to take a task over for you, an hour or two of process knowledge transfer? Once the initial effort is complete you're good to go. Not only will you be able to recoup the time from these tasks going forward, but you've also just documented the process which can make it easier to refine and improve in the future.
A good exercise to help you push past the barrier of psychology and get started with task delegation is to create a list of the tasks you routinely execute on a daily or weekly basis. Here's a handy interactive form which can help you get started with this process. Once you've laid out the tasks you're responsible for, identify those which you would never delegate. These high-value tasks usually align with the long term strategic goals of the business or require the knowledge or specialty in which you were hired for.
Completing this exercise will help you better appreciate the specific service and value you bring to the organization. Evaluating the tasks performed on a case by case basis and then delegating those which are deemed to be 'low-value' and cause continual distraction from more important needs of the business, or isolating those processes which may benefit from streamlining and/or be dropped altogether, is a cost saving function that can improve the organization as a whole.
Although the work-management method referred to as strategic delegation has been at work in companies for years, many other organization have yet to establish delegation programs for their employees. Different than traditional outsourcing arrangements, where a primary goal is to reduce overhead and send the job outside the business entirely, a delegation partnership works to optimize the utilization of existing in-house resources by providing them a channel to submit individual tasks to an outside support partner on an as-needed basis. Tasks performed are provided using an elastic, consumption-based model, which allows the customer to scale up or scale down usage dependent on the current demands of the business.
This approach to enhancing productivity may require some ingenuity and creative rethinking of traditional service provider engagement, but a properly leveraged delegation partnership can not only relieve pressure on internal resources, it can also increase the speed and agility of business units, allowing them to deliver growth and transformation projects in shorter time frames and with more successful outcomes.
The last reason many people hesitate to delegate is a general lack of understanding of how the process should be carried out in the first place. Perhaps it's something you have tired in the past, but the steps need to transfer knowledge were cumbersome or overly complicated leading to less-than-stellar work delivery. Maybe the delegation platform being used was clunky and made it too difficult to seamlessly hand off tasks or enough communication and transparency into the work being performed. Poor experiences like these can make you feel as though it's just easier to keep doing it all yourself.
Whether using an in-house delegation program or the services of an outside support partner, the structure of the delegation channel must be clearly defined from the outset. A sound method of communicating, submitting and receiving tasks, such as a ticketing system or other collaborative software, should be in place. Each task should have clear work instructions and predefined delivery times. Escalation procedures must be understood in case an issue arises during the task's execution. If possible, quantitative reporting on all activities delivered should be provided so processes can be reviewed and improved if needed.
1. Identify and separate high value tasks from the low value tasks.
Write down a list of the tasks you routinely execute on a daily or weekly basis (this interactive Task Evaluator tool can help). Separate the high value tasks from the low ones and then drop or delegate the low values tasks which cause the largest distraction or hold you back from greater productivity on the high-value objectives of the business.
2. Clearly define your needs and expectations up front.
Explicitly define the purpose behind the task and process which is needed to execute it properly. Many executables will already have some sort of documentation which outlines the steps needed to perform it. Make sure the goals set out are measurable and specific and, when possible, use a delegation partner who can provide reporting on the tasks they execute on your behalf. After the initial knowledge transfer process is completed, go through a test run of the procedure to ensure everything runs smoothly.
3. Delegate, discuss, repeat.
A good delegation relationship is a two way street. Your delegation partner should be expected to communicate at each stage of the tasks execution along with providing some form of reporting for the work performed throughout a set period. You should also be actively communicating on the results of their delivery as well as any process changes you see the need for. Helping your delegation partner be successful is what this relationship is all about. The more they assist you with your low value responsibilities, the more time you have for focusing on the high value.
Developing good delegation skills is a key component to stronger productivity. Categorizing your regular work responsibilities by "high value" or "low value", as a first step toward delegating, helps you to be more objective about your daily work contributions and makes it more easy to identify tasks which could be holding you back from more valuable output. Improving your delegation skills can also reduce in lower personal stress levels which has been shown to have a direct impact on job performance and job satisfaction.
So what are you waiting for? Stop hesitating and start delegating!