Project Managers need to delegate

The project is in full swing; the project manager is so busy they cannot talk about the football match last night and was in early (again) today. The deadline for the procurement report (a significant part of the project) is a day late and you need it urgently.

Meanwhile, you notice the project team are relaxed, not too busy and to be honest, there are strong indications that team members do not have enough work to do.

You identify that the project manager needs to learn how to delegate.

Far from the truth? No!

Over the last 12 months I have had a lot of requests to train people how to delegate. Now you should bear in mind that these requests came during project management courses  that we run, not soft skills or management skills courses. Depending upon the time available I do one of two things:

  •  give a handout which contains my 6 simple stages to effective delegation
  •  use role play based around the 6 simple stages

So, what are the stages? They are:

1. The project manager needs to explain why the task or job is important and has to be done. It may be obvious to you why the task needs to be done, but maybe not so by project team members (including stakeholders) you are delegating to. They may not have been part of the discussions you were involved in. It helps to put the task into a context and helps to motivate the individual who does the task.

2. Define results you want very clearly so that the person understands what is expected of them. You may need to discuss the results with the person you are delegating to and re-visit part way through. An unclear steer from you will result in a missed opportunity. Check their level of understanding by asking questions

3. Define the authority the person has e.g. “you can decide on anything except for money.” Or, “any work that links into the south west team should be referred back to me.” Your role is to ensure the task does not go wrong but if it does, you must retain ultimate accountability i.e. you carry the can!

4. Agree a deadline when the task has to be completed – you may want an interim deadline such as let’s review this in 3 days and see how you are going – see also 6 below

5. Ask and get feedback that the person understands what is required. Check understanding with very specific “what?”, “why?” “how?” questions

6. Set up controls to review progress – bear in mind the level of authority given; be careful not to remove the authority you have given to the person;ivering the task

Feedback I receive and Project Agency  Consultants suggests that this approach works! Try it and see how you go.


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