Book Review – Delegating Work

Delegating work

Another book in the Harvard Business Press Pocket Mentor series, this one focuses on helping managers to delegate work more effectively. The aim of this book is to show managers how to:

  • Identify tasks to delegate
  • Assign tasks and monitor their progress
  • Handle any problems with delegated tasks

Written by Thomas L Brown, this book has just 77 pages and is split into two main sections. One with the main content titled, Delegating Work: the basics, and a second section with extra tips and tools on the subject.

The first section is further divided into five topics, each of which I have reviewed briefly below.

What is delegating?

Here you will read some useful information on what delegating is. The purpose of delegating, benefits of delegating and concerns managers have about delegating are discussed. You will also learn about the difference between empowerment and delegating. Here are two nuggets for you:

  • Delegation involves the assignment of a specific task or project by one person to another and the assignees commitment to complete it.
  • The difference between delegation and empowerment is that in delegation the manager retains authority, control and responsibility. Under empowerment power and responsibility are shifted to the recipient.

Guidelines for effective delegating

Two key guidelines for effective delegation are discussed which are:

  • Establishing the right environment
  • Selecting a delegation approach.

Some more nuggets for you:

  • To establish the right environment, encourage staff to share their special interests and time availability for new projects.
  • To select a delegation approach you can delegate either by task, project or function, but delegating by task is as good place to start.

Preparing to delegate

To prepare for delegation you must:

  • Identify your reasons for delegating
  • Decide what to delegate
  • Know what not to delegate
  • Identify skills required for the assignment about to be delegated
  • Match the right person to the task

These points summarise what was discussed under this topic.

Making the assignment

Two key steps are necessary to delegate which are, to set up a discussion for the delegation and grant the person authority. You will learn about how to do that here. But here are some nuggets for you:

  • Clearly describe the task to be delegated
  • Define its purpose and how it fits into the bigger picture
  • Discuss feasible deadlines
  • Establish agreed performance standards.

Monitoring a delegation

This is the last part of the first section of the book and you will learn about what is involved in tracking a delegated assignment. Some of the suggested ways to do that are:

  • Staff meetings
  • Written status reports
  • Assignment log that tracks all projects and tasks

The importance of continuing to provide support to a person you delegate a task to, is also emphasized. There is a warning to managers about falling into the trap of reverse delegation, which is when someone you delegated a task to wants to pass it back to you. Delegation is partly about building the trust managers have in their team members and their capabilities. Reverse delegation undermines this. The rest of this part of the book discusses:

  • Addressing problems that may occur in the delegation process
  • Reflecting on a completed assignment
  • Teaching delegation skills to team leaders

Tips and tools

This part of the book is a permanent feature of all the books in this series. It provides extra tools on the subject being discussed. Tools provided in this case include:

  • A delegation skills checklist
  • Worksheet for preparing to delegate
  • Delegation assignment tracking form
  • Task delegation analysis
  • A self assessment test to review the knowledge in the book
  • Some frequently asked questions
  • Information about extra articles and books on the subject

In 77 pages this book teaches a lot about delegation. I will say that the information outlined in this book is enough to Improve the skills of any manager wanting to get better at delegation. If you are a manager or you want to learn about delegation you can’t go wrong reading this book. After all it will only take you about 2 hours to go through it.

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