4 steps to effectively delegate tasks

Agile Project Management

Another blog’s (a food blog!) writer asked the work question of how to delegate a task. I did this answer and then thought that if it was good enough for a comment on that web site, it was certainly good enough to share. Here’s the comment:

Once you make the decision something can be delegated, do the following:

1. Delegate the task to the person who can best do the task.

Give to people’s strengths, not their weaknesses. Don’t give a planning task delegation to a person who hates to plan.

2. Completely describe the end result of the task being delegated.

If you can’t describe the end state, you are only confusing the communication. “We need a competitive analysis of our product compared to these three competitors, X, Y, and Z. We need to compare features, price, market share, and advertising methods. We need this by Friday.”

3. Tell the person the format of the end deliverable.

For the above, do you want it in text (e.g., Word) or a spreadsheet? PowerPoint? Verbal presentation? Nothing sucks bigger than creating a 20-page Word document, going to the person giving you the task and then that person saying, “Oh. I wanted it in a spreadsheet.” Yeah, sucks.

4. Prototype, prototype, prototype.

Here’s the deal: No matter how clear you think you are in the delegation, you’re not clear. Don’t care who you are, what you have in your head is not the picture in the other person’s head. It won’t match no matter how good you think you communicate. Thus, tell the person to do ONE thing with what was just delegated.

For example, if you want your information back in a spreadsheet, have that person create the spreadsheet with all the row and column labels and fill in two lines with real information. Then review it with that person to insure everyone is on the same track.

Most likely, you will catch different interpretations of what you just delegated. And, most likely, the person taking on the task will have great ideas on how your task could be done better — format, information, or method of delivery. It makes the entire deliverable that much better. So prototype. You’ll be happy you did. And so will the person completing the task.

That’s my $1.50′s worth!

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