Delegation as a tool manager

Delegation as a tool manager

> In the field of people management (where many of us IT people often come suddenly), there are a lot of tools and approaches. Some of them are basic, others follow. But one way or another, a huge number of beginner managers are discovering the tools for managing the trial and error method.

Delegation is one of the basic tools of a manager that the majority knows about. But they often turn to him too late, believing that "the time has not yet come to delegate - there are plenty of other things." Unfortunately, this can lead to not very good results.

In the article, I will tell you what delegation is, why it is necessary and when it is necessary to begin delegating, how to delegate correctly and where you can break wood, how it all relates to situational management and how it is necessary to act. In the end I will share my own know-how in the field of delegation, I hope that this will be useful for every reader.

Welcome under the cut!

My name is Ilya Ageev, I have been working at Badoo for almost eight years now, I am in charge of a large department responsible for quality control. At the moment, almost 80 people are subordinate to me. This article is a transcript of my report on Badoo on May 19, 2018 with Techleads Meetup . It will be useful to a wide audience, regardless of whether you are directing now or not.

So, let's go!

To begin, we give a definition of delegation. In this, like in many other cases, Wikipedia .
Delegation is the process of transferring some of the functions of a manager to other managers or employees in order to achieve the specific goals of the organization.

So remember.

Henry Ford Story

When it comes to delegation, I first of all recall the story of Henry Ford. I do not know if this is true or not (it is quite possible that this is just a bike), but the story is beautiful.

Once Henry Ford decided to send all managers at all levels to a two-week cruise in the Caribbean. Excuses were not accepted - everyone went on a journey in a voluntary-compulsory order. When the managers returned, some were waiting for promotion, and others - dismissal.

What was Ford based on? On the quality of the work of the departments that temporarily were left without managers. Those managers whose units continued to work normally, were awarded. If, in the absence of the head of the staff, everything fell out of the hands, the work did not go on and the processes broke down, it means that the head was not able to get the work done and such managers should be dismissed.

Delegate easy!

In general, there is nothing complicated about delegation. I am sure that the majority of readers are constantly confronted with delegation and, in one way or another, use this tool daily in their work.

However, sometimes there are incidents due to improper use of the delegation tool. Apparently, because everything seems too obvious, understandable and emanating from the most common sense.

I think many have seen this picture from the Network, on which everything was “delegated”, and only Vasya works in the end:

And this one, in which the workflows are built in separate divisions, but the company as a whole is clearly moving somewhere wrong:

And there’s one on which everything looks structurally correct, everyone is in place, but at the same time people feel, to put it mildly, not very:

Why is this happening? Why do such errors occur in management? Let's dig deeper.

We return to the definition of delegation and carefully read it. What strikes you in the first place?

Delegation is the process of transferring part of the manager’s functions to other managers or employees in order to achieve the organization’s specific goals.

Delegation is the transfer of part of the functions of a manager ... A man in the street immediately thinks: “Oh, cool! I want to function as a manager! Chief - he's so cool! He sits in his office, the secretary wears coffee. The chief decides who to hire and who to fire. Decides the fate of people! I also WANT so! ”

But in fact, the transfer of authority is not limited. And surely the manager, besides drinking coffee, does something else. Spoiler: a lot more.


Let's turn to smart people and see what they think about delegation. For example, Henri Fayolle , French mining engineer, theorist and management practice, one of the founders of the" classical school "of management, says so:

Powers should not be considered separately from liability [...]. Responsibility is due to authority.

And if you think carefully, it becomes clear that the main thing in delegation is responsibility. Everything else — authority, decision-making power, resources, people, processes — follows and serves only the goals of implementing delegated responsibility.

Authorization without responsibility is possible, but it can lead to disastrous consequences. And to give responsibility without authority means putting the performer in a hopeless situation, because he will not be able to realize the delegated responsibility.

Thus, we conclude that the responsibility and authority for its implementation should be delegated only together. In this case, the authority should be delegated exactly as much as is necessary for the implementation of responsibility. If you give less authority, there is a huge risk that things will not be done. If you give more, there is a risk of exceeding authority .

By the way, in the English-language "Wikipedia" the definition of delegation contains the word "responsibility" (responsibility). It is strange that in the Russian version it is lost.

Why do I need to delegate?

In one of the sources that I studied in the process of preparing my report, I discovered this list of reasons for delegation:

  • solving complex tasks that others cannot solve;
  • increase employee motivation;
  • increased trust in the team;
  • performance check of subordinates.

To me, he looks a little strange, especially the last point. Therefore, I will leave this list without comments, and instead I will offer my list of reasons for delegation.

Professional growth of employees . Obviously, if you don’t share with your subordinates a part of the work you do every day, they will never learn how to do it.The same applies to you as a manager: if you do not delegate, you will never learn. Refusing to delegate, you inhibit both your growth and the growth of your employees, and the growth of the company as a whole.

A fresh look and constant development . These are vital conditions for you and for the entire company. There are several practices, for example:

  • Kaizen - Japanese practice (and philosophy, like many Japanese) of the continuous development of processes, people and everything that revolves around it;
  • Deming cycle (plan-do-check-act, PDCA) - cyclically repeated decision-making process used in quality management;
  • continuous improvement management (CIM) - the practice of constant improvements in Goldratt's constraint theory.

The weakening of the bus factor. We are all human. No one is immune from illness, urgent matters and other force majeure. Everyone can have a vacation. Finally, they can fire us. And delegation is a direct way to minimize risks both for the company as a whole and for your department in particular.

When can I start delegating?

Probably many are asking this question. “I am a manager, I have one person in charge. Can I start delegating? ”Or“ I am a manager, I have five people in my team. Do I have to wait for them to be six? "

Let's talk about the upper limit. British scientist Robin Dunbar has managed mathematically calculate that the size of the cerebral cortex in higher primates, which is called the neocortex, linearly correlates with the number of social connections, which they can support. For people, this limit is about 150 links. This value is also called the Dunbar number.

This number includes your relatives, childhood friends, neighbors, colleagues, children, wives/husbands and your employees, with whom you meet daily at work. 150 social connections - the physiological limit, for someone it is a little more, for someone - a little less.

They say that Alexander of Macedon knew every soldier in the face, but, most likely, this is only a beautiful legend.

Is there any realistic number - the number of people with whom it is comfortable to work? Again physiology comes to the rescue. The American psychologist George Miller derived the following pattern: our short-term memory (operational) can operate only seven (± 2) values ​​per unit of time. This phenomenon is called " magic number seven, plus or minus two ", or" Miller's wallet. "

This observation is correlated with the experience of many of us. So, 6–12 people is the optimal size of a department. If there are more people, it becomes much more difficult to manage them. Especially if you have newbies or the processes are not yet set up properly.

Nevertheless, my experience shows that sometimes a large number of people can be operated well. One of my employees, who runs the department in my area of ​​responsibility, has 20 people under direct control and does a good job with them. But I think this is more the exception than the rule.

So when to start delegating? In fact, no need to wait. You can start, even if you are alone.As soon as a piece of responsibility is delegated to you, all the causes and risks, which we talked about earlier, immediately appear. Therefore, risks should be minimized.

Therefore, let's talk about how to and how not to transfer authority and responsibility.

Delegation Errors

First, consider the mistakes that managers make when delegating.

  1. The first and most obvious mistake is the lack of delegation. Delegate, do not wait. The “right” moment may never come.
  2. Delegation to a group without assigning a responsible person. When we speak about delegation, first of all we speak about responsibility. If you delegate responsibility to a group of people, then there must be someone in charge. When everyone is responsible for something, in fact no one is responsible.
  3. Delegation without taking into account the capabilities of the contractor. Responsibility and means for its implementation should be given exactly in such a quantity that is necessary to solve the problem. If you give less, the task simply will not be solved.
  4. Delegating other people's tasks. If the responsibility is not on you, how can you pass it on to someone else or share it with someone else?
  5. Delegation of small tasks without specifying a goal. When an employee does not understand a common goal, even if he tries very hard and fulfills what you asked him to do, it is not a fact that he will come in time to where you need to go. The reverse is also true.
  6. Delegation of objectives without instruction. This is what happens when you say where to go, but do not say how.
  7. Delegation without specifying deadlines. If you assign a task to an employee and do not designate an ultimate goal, steps, deadlines, it is very likely that the task will not be solved.
  8. Delegation without specifying priorities. See item 7.
  9. Delegation of uninteresting tasks. Surely among you there are people who find themselves in a situation where the head of those tasks that he does not like, throws off on others. Do not do it this way.
  10. No feedback or control. This is when you give a task and do not check how a person copes with it.
  11. Perfectionism and impatience. Very serious and very frequent error when delegating. This is when you know what you can do better, and constantly approach the person, point out the shortcomings. In fact, you simply prevent him from achieving the result now, and successfully solving similar tasks in the future.
  12. Finally, the complete transfer of responsibility. Delegation is not a complete transfer of responsibility, but only its division with the person to whom you delegate the task. Despite the fact that he is responsible to you for the execution, terms, quality, no one has taken responsibility from you. In the end, you will still be responsible before your leadership.

Many novice managers immediately have a question, which in itself is a big mistake: “ If I delegate everything that I value and love me for, then I’ll stop being irreplaceable. Why then will I need the company? I can be fired . ”

Here it is important to remember two things. First: as a manager, you must take care of the risks. If it turned out that you are the only person who can do something within certain tasks, then you took the company "hostage". So you are the enemy of your own company. So do in no way impossible. Second: the more you delegate, the more you will acquire. There will be new tasks for which you did not have time before. After all, you didn’t even have time to raise your head from the routine and look around, think about the fact that the company may have problems of a different scale and that there are important strategic tasks that also need to be addressed.

Delegation Rules

How to do the right thing? Let's look at this also point by point.

  1. Delegate. Do not wait, use every opportunity, reduce the risks. Take care of the growth of your employees and company.
  2. Pick an artist for the task. The person to whom you delegate authority and responsibility should be suitable for solving the problem both in their professional qualities and in their involvement.
  3. Formulate a goal, determine the result, confirm the timeline.
  4. Mark rights and obligations. Provide the contractor with all the resources necessary to solve the problem.
  5. Motivate.
  6. Make sure that the person to whom you delegate responsibilities understood everything correctly.
  7. Maintain and control an employee during the execution.
  8. Do not forget about automation. This is a very important point. Often, when delegating, managers think one-sidedly, only about people. In fact, you can delegate to any resource. The simplest example is a calendar, an automated tool to which you delegate the work of memorizing and scheduling your meetings, which also reminds you of events as a personal secretary.


We found out what is good and what is bad, where to start and how to act in different situations. Is something required from employees so that the manager can delegate authority to them?

In management theory there are two concepts of the transfer of authority and responsibility.

The first is the so-called classic concept, where authority and responsibility are transferred from top to bottom. This includes orders, clear instructions, step-by-step instruction. As in the army: the chief ordered to roll square or wear a round one - be kind enough to do it without thinking about why you should do this way.

The second is the concept of acceptance of authority and responsibility that Chester Bernard , president of the Bell Telephone Company in New Jersey, formulated. According to it, authority can be transferred from top to bottom and back; that is, a subordinate can take authority and responsibility, and can or not. Within this concept, you need to convince the person to do what you need to “sell” the idea.

How to act correctly? True, as always, somewhere in the middle.

Desires and Opportunities

We are assisted by a model of situational leadership, which was formulated by two Americans: Paul Hersey, an ethologist and entrepreneur, and Ken Blanchard, author of books and a management expert. In the 1960s, they wrote a general work Management of organizational behavior, in which they formulated a model that takes into account the motivation and experience of the employee.

The authors argue that there is no one correct leadership style that suits absolutely everyone in any situation. On the contrary, according to the model, the style of leadership depends on the specific task and specific artist.

Here the model is represented by large strokes, of course, there may be transition states in it. But for a general understanding of this gradation is enough.

  • "I want - I can not." These are people who have a strong motivation, but little experience to solve the problem. Usually these are beginners who have just started working after receiving a diploma, they are really eager to do something. The method of working with them - instructing. Set clear goals for them, teach them, clarify some points, control. There’s almost no need to motivate them.

  • "I do not want - I can not." Here is a suitable leadership style - mentoring. Such people can not and do not want for some reason. This is the most difficult category, because such employees need not only to be trained, but also constantly motivated.They need to set clear goals, give them clear orders, instructions, constantly monitor them step by step, but do not forget to explain the reasons for making certain decisions, “sell” ideas and ways to solve problems. Thus, we teach such employees to perform the tasks that the department and the company as a whole face.
  • "I do not want - I can." The right leadership style is engagement. This category includes people who have a lot of experience, but for some reason lost motivation. This happens with employees who have long worked in the company and "burned out". They need to be motivated, “sell” ideas to them, convince them to complete the task. When interacting with them, emphasis should be placed on their motivation.
  • "I want - I can." The easiest group to delegate authority. The leadership style here is called delegation. In front of such people you can set vague goals and almost ignore how the problem is solved. They should not be supported or motivated. But this does not mean that only these people can be delegated.

In the latter case, it is easiest to delegate, but in fact, it is possible to delegate responsibilities to any member of the team, only the expenditure of resources
will be different.

Probably, you would like all your employees to be from the “I want - I can” group, but the harsh truth of life is such that this is not always the case and working with the bulk of your team requires a lot of effort. Especially with those who do not want and can not.

Therefore, we often think: “ I myself first need to do a very good job and try before delegating something to someone. And then you have to constantly control him, make sure that he is doing the right thing . ” Usually such thoughts arise if you evaluate the task linearly or the resources at your disposal, if it seems to you that you and only you can distribute tasks to your employees, explain, motivate and control them. This is a big mistake.

You have more resources as a manager. Indeed, in all these daily tasks you can help your employees.

Let's look at the diagram in a slightly different way. What do we need to do for employees whose motivation or expertise regarding specific tasks is not at the highest level?

Such employees need to be trained, motivated, and those who fall into the category “I don't want - I can't” - both train and motivate at the same time. Yes, and control has not been canceled.

What if we, for example, try to build a learning process and automate controls to reduce the amount of work?

This, by the way, is a very important point. When you build a process, you need to focus primarily on the performers who need to be motivated, controlled and trained. Those who need to invest in a minimum, can cope, even if the process itself is not.

As for the delegation of tasks, let's start with the simplest. Why don't we build this process in such a way that people who require a minimum of effort to interact with, help train those who have high motivation but don't have the skills yet? After all, the necessary expertise for professional work of this group of employees is available.

Such specialists can help in creating the process of onboarding employees, in teaching newcomers the necessary teamwork skills, etc. e. Special documentation and step-by-step instructions are needed here so that such tasks take up a minimum of time in the future both from you and from other experts in the department.

Or can such people help motivate the group “I don't want”? We talked about motivation and burnout at the next Techleads Meetup in Badoo on June 15, 2019. Many of the things discussed there can also be delegated.

And even those who have lost motivation, but have expertise, can also be used in the learning process. Many would love to share their experience, thereby increasing their involvement in the common cause. The burning eyes of colleagues who look at the expert and listen with his mouth open what he is saying motivates very well.

I assure you that many of those who feel that they need a team, that their experience is needed not only to perform routine work, will increase their motivation, that other employees begin to respect and love him even more and appreciate his help in solving daily tasks. They can easily go from the “I don't want - I can” group to the “I want - I can” group.

And then everything is simple, because the delegation process can be performed in parallel. Simply attracting subordinates to solving problems that you previously chose to solve alone.

And we smoothly approached the fact that delegation is the same managerial function as any other. Surprisingly, it can also be delegated.

Can it be somehow simpler?

Probably, one of you had an idea that everything is difficult. “If I want to delegate a task, I’ll have to open an article, look at all these points, try on the task again with these rules. And can you somehow simpler? Is there any piece that will help me evaluate tasks? I would understand that this is appropriate, but this is not, this is what should be done first of all, this is the second . ”

Such a piece really exists. This is the know-how I mentioned at the very beginning.

Imagine that right now the boss is calling you, the owner of the company, the highest boss, and he says: “ Vasya, get out of the building. There is a car standing there. She will take you to the airport. There is waiting for a private plane. He will take you to an island in the Caribbean where you will spend some time. We have already warned your loved ones. But you can't tell a job . "

Ask yourself, what will break in your department or company? Imagine that you are absent day, three days, week, month, year. Imagine you went on a cruise for life. This way, you’ll have a prioritized list of things that you definitely need to delegate.


I hope that I managed to convey to the reader the thesis that delegation is not difficult. Yes, it can be done wrong. But how to do it right, we now understand, too.

I just want to remind you that delegation and all the above are not the only strategy for working with people. This is not a panacea. In the arsenal of the manager is much more tools. See more and maximize the resources you have.

Thank you for your attention!

  - Links to sources used to prepare the report: l of permissions,_Plus_or_Minus_Two

Source text: Delegation as a tool manager