Holding on to the reins



As every project manager knows, delegation keeps complex projects moving forward. But assigning tasks can invite risk that is sometimes better to avoid. We asked practitioners:

What are the best ways to delegate?

Pick Carefully What to Delegate—Then Let Go

There are two important things to not delegate. Final decisions on hiring new team members should not be delegated: You need to make sure you have the right people on the project. Client relationships at the vice president and CIO level should also stay with the primary project manager so you can be sure the project is aligned with their goals. But once you’ve given the task over to a team member along with some guidance, let go. You need to let them do the task without constant micro-managing. They may not do things the same way as you, but they add their own thought processes that add another level of value.”

—Joyce Fitzpatrick, PMP, director of client engagements, Astea International, Orange County, California, USA

Build Safety Nets

While working as a program manager for a large enterprise program, I delegated management of a project to a QA lead whom I had promoted as a project manager. The quality of project deliverables didn’t meet expectations, and team morale was low. I hold myself responsible for it in hindsight; I should have built a better safety net around the delegated project. The safety net could have been better measuring parameters and stage gates to ensure that the project was progressing as expected and that the project manager was getting the right support to succeed.

If you want people to strive for innovation, you have to give them the freedom to fail. But when delegating, select the lowest-risk items first and make sure that safety nets are in place so that there are no surprises with the outcome.”

—Sridhar Peddisetty, PMI-ACP, PMP, PgMP, executive director of client engagement, ProKarma, Hyderabad, India

Own the Planning Phase

Planning is the most critical element of project management, and it must be handled by the project manager. In my experience with small to mid-size projects at software companies, there have been instances where the schedule planning for deliverables is delegated to the sales teams or account managers who end up promising unrealistic dates to clients. The project manager must control the schedule planning and management of tasks with a strict eye over the daily progress of project deliverables.”

—Vikas Palta, PMP, senior project manager, project consultant, Outside Intelligence Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Communicate Early and Often

Discussions of positive and negative impacts at the project meetings should never be delegated to others. The feedback from these sessions helps build support and trust in you as a project manager and enables collaboration with stakeholders and project team members. It builds the required support for issue resolution and any risk mitigation actions required by the project.

If a project manager is absent in these critical discussions, there’s a risk that who’s responsible for the project may become a question. Not being in communication with all stakeholders could slow down issue resolution, causing delays in the schedule and possibly cost implications. It could become an uphill battle to gain trust and support as the project manager throughout the remainder of the project.”

—Melissa Tsalicoglou, PMP, project manager, Pick ‘n Pay, Cape Town, South Africa

Control Quality to the End

A couple of years ago, while in the middle of a big project, I delegated all my responsibilities while on vacation. While I was out of the country, I trusted my colleague to come through with the agreed upon deliverables. When I came back, the project had been completed but some of the deliverables were lacking in quality. Unfortunately, all fingers were pointed at me as the project head. It was then that I realized that, though on vacation, I should have tried harder to remotely monitor and control the project with my deputy. Especially on large and complex projects, it’s important to have the final check of deliverables.”

—Jonathan Addo, PMP, server, storage and backup manager, Ecobank eProcess International S.A, Accra, Ghana

Assign Roles Carefully

In my experience, delegation often seems like an ad-hoc task in the project life cycle. This might be an indication that the project manager has not clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each project team member. My advice is to use the RACI matrix (who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who should be Consulted, and who should be Informed) to clarify roles and responsibilities before project kickoff.

During project execution, the project manager should avoid assigning a task beyond someone’s duty. If you have to go down that path, look at RACI and consider the following factors: the rationale of delegation, the capability and skills of the person you are delegating to, the availability of the person, the best and worst outcome of such delegation, and any conflict of interest.”

—Malong Dong, PMP, program manager, Pacific Program Management Office, Schneider Electric, Sydney, Australia

What’s Your Problem? We’ll help you solve it by asking practitioners around the world for advice. Send your project questions or issues to [email protected].

Learn to Let Go

How can a practitioner better distinguish between tasks that can be delegated and those that can’t? Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress, shared this list with the Harvard Business Review. As a practitioner, ask yourself:

▪ Could someone else complete this work at an acceptable level?

▪ Could someone else do part of this project?

▪ Could someone else do the initial draft so I only have to review and tweak it?

▪ Is this work keeping me from my highest-value activities?




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