Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the double edged sword of delegation

Sometimes I am really good at delegating. Other times, I'm horrible. Usually, I convince myself that quality is not the problem. I tell myself that my standards for, say, structure or organization or the english language are all not the problem. But, I think I might be kidding myself. Here's what happens:

a) I find someone to whom to delegate. Or they volunteer.
b) We talk about what needs doing. It takes - say - 30 minutes. I think I'm being reasonably clear. Perhaps I'm not. I'm open to that possibility.
c) They take a crack at it. Often, it is... inadequate. Sometimes, we talk about ways to improve it. Sometimes, that resource is now gone, and so is the time it took for them to take a pass at it.
d) Sometimes, my attempts to communicate the pass 2 are met with deaf ears. Or, I find myself line editing by phone with the person, watching them type my words, or cut and paste.
e) Ultimately, I end up just taking it over - either because I can't spend hours watching someone learn to do something or because I'm left holding the bag with less time than before.

Then, I scream. Seriously, I scream. I would have been better off doing it from the start. The way I see it, if delegating takes any more than 50% of the time it takes to achieve the final task, it is not worth it. And that's end-to-end. Delegate-Review-Edit - the whole shebang. Because doing it myself can take 4 hours and less frustration and less pain.

I'm finding that it is easier to:

a) Structure the work myself - people seem unable to structure things. I've written so many outlines for people in the past week, it's not funny.
b) Specifically write down the next steps with names associated with each.
c) Reserve the complicated pieces for myself - like writing the conclusion or introduction sections of a paper.
d) Delegate tasks I know I cannot do well, like layout or line editing.

When I don't do the initial structuring, everything starts falling apart. Then everyone spirals around structure for a while, burning precious time, and then starts tripping over what pieces they should do and in what order, and by the end, I do everything. Next time, I should try to delegate more but follow this pattern, perhaps, and thus end up holding a smaller bag.

1 comment:

PD said...

I like your approach a-d. To slightly modify I would say this. On c, you also need to preserve time and energy to manage the work, quality check it and shop it around to your people. Factor that in as an overhead item that you should give yourself time for. On d, delegation is also about asking the people whose jobs it is to do these things to do them. When you delve too far into their world, you may find you don't have time for the overhead, which is equally a part of what needs to get done.