Guidelines to Effective Delegation

Guidelines to Effective Delegation


Effective Delegation

Delegating tasks is an inevitable reality for managers. Being able to effectively delegate and still remain in control of follow through and outcomes can be difficult. By examining three case studies,  we’ll take a look at the three most important things to keep in mind to achieve the effective delegation of  tasks:

• Defining the task clearly
• Outlining the scope of the task
• Assigning a deadline for follow up and task

Let’s look at 3 separate scenarios and how effective delegation could be achieved.

Effective Delegation #1 – Defining The Task Clearly


As the Manager of Quality Assurance for a hospital,  Denise is responsible for making sure that patient medication errors are identified, reviewed and resolved. Hong Mai works for Denise and they communicate mostly by email, as they work in different buildings.  Denise has noted an increase in the number of missed and duplicated dosages and missing data about patients’ current medication in a recent review of patient charts. Denise assigns the task of resolving these errors to Hong Mai via email, indicating vaguely that there needs to be a zero tolerance policy for “these types” of mistakes. Hong Mai finds herself at a loss when she sits down to begin this incredibly large and important task. Where should she begin?

Achieving Effective Delegation

Hong Mai lacks guidance and clarity. Denise has made a unilateral decision and delegated its execution but hasn’t involved anyone who has anything to do with patient medication in the plan. Getting an accurate picture of an issue is the first step in delegation. Set up a meeting with anyone with critical information surrounding the issue, and structure it so that each participant has a chance to speak from their point of view. By using a simple rating system, the group can determine what is at the heart of the issue and begin to brainstorm solutions. Use the same process to determine the best solution to the problem and develop an action plan outlining implementation. At this point, you can delegate tasks with the knowledge that those involved understand their assignment fully and the associated expectations. A successful outcome is immediately more likely because all those affected by the issue have been involved in the analysis of what needs to be done. This solicits commitment so that the person executing the solution knows they have the support and guidance of a wider, knowledgeable group.

Effective Delegation #2 – Outlining The Scope Of The Task:

Brad is responsible for the landscape division of a regional municipality. The division has recently begun a large project to reclaim and revitalize a natural water course. Brad has appointed Janet as his project assistant,
whose role it is to manage the day to day issues surrounding the project, while all major decisions filter through Brad. Unfortunately, Janet sees this assignment differently. Suddenly, Brad finds himself answering questions about when Janet was given the authority to assign work to the parks employees and what cost centre to use for the 500 linden trees she ordered to replace the elms Brad had originally decided on.
Janet is confused as to why Brad is so upset when he phones to speak with her.

Achieving Effective Delegation

Janet sees no limit to her resources or authority because none was ever indicated to her. The scope of the task is unclear as Brad has simply assigned a project and not indicated what Janet’s role will be, resulting in

frustration and confusion on both sides. When a task is delegated, it’s sometimes easy to neglect details as a result of the false assumption that certain things “go without saying.” The scope of a person’s responsibility and authority needs to be clearly defined from the beginning. Success is ensured by being clear on expectations. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that the scope of a task is not static and associated
responsibility and authority can change. Ensuring frequent check-ins will allow you to determine whether this is a possibility.

Effective Delegation #3 – Assigning a Deadline For Follow Up and Task Completion:

Ravi is the team leader responsible for the company warehouse. He leads a team of five and takes his role seriously but can sometimes get bogged down with day to day tasks. When approached by his boss, Brooke, about implementing new, stringent safety regulations, Ravi takes on the task with conviction. He enrolls in a safety committee representative  course and reads up on how to create a safety culture. Despite  his
early initiative however, other work starts to take priority and things remain mostly the same. When Brooke arrives unexpectedly at the warehouse one day, she notes that the warehouse floor doesn’t have
clear yellow boundaries and some workers still aren’t wearing ear protection or safety goggles.

Achieving Effective Delegation

Ravi has fallen under the false assumption that he can complete the task assigned to him when he has time. Brooke has presented no sense of urgency, despite the task’s importance, and drops in unexpectedly (and
unfairly) to monitor progress. When a task is delegated, it is imperative that an appropriate sense of urgency and dates for check-in and completion are communicated. There are two mistakes that can be made in this instance: either too much urgency is placed on a request initially and timely follow up never occurs, or there is no sense of urgency conveyed and thus, the task isn’t completed when it needs to be. Both situations create frustration, conflict, and in this case, safety issues. Communicating concrete dates for follow up and completion ensure that a task is completed on schedule and without aggravation. Ensuring clear communication throughout the process will provide necessary flexibility, mutual understanding, and satisfaction with the outcome.
Delegation becomes an effective tool when open and frequent communication is treated as a priority. In order to remain on top of outcomes and processes, setting clear expectations surrounding the task is crucial. It will ensure success and limit the frustration that often accompanies the delegation techniques of the Denises, Brads, and Brookes of the world!


Effective delegation is key to the smooth and continual operation of a business – ineffective delegation leads to management and employee frustrations, confrontations, and inefficiencies which hard the business and its employees. Effective delegation stems from clear communications as well as building a respectful workplace which encourages staff and management to approach each other and clarify communication gaps in a respectful and non-confrontation manager.

If your organization management lacks effective delegation skills – it could be the symptom of a larger workplace issue. Contact ProActive Resolutions to talk about how we can help your organization establish and build a respectful workplace – part of the foundation to effective delegation.

Contact Us To Learn More


Article from Canadian Institute of Management: How do you delegate authority, yet remain on top of processes and outcomes?


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