Thinking more about empowerment and autonomy inspired by a couple of books I just finished - Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself, Mike Michalowicz and The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change, Fournier, I have learned / added to what I believe are the 4 incremental steps to delegation.
Assuming you haven’t hired in the expert who is smarter than you on the subject at hand, and that you are promoting from within to a new responsibility, then the rules of delegation require that you don’t skip steps and call it done, and if you haven’t completed all steps then you haven’t delegated.
The four steps are;
Teeny Tiny Micro management; you decide what must be done, by who and by when, to achieve the outcome. You are the designer of the work processes and the decider as to its effectiveness and what’s next. You assign the tasks and evaluate the quality of the work produced, you decide what’s next and you are responsible for redesigning and improving the work process. This situation can at best manage a handful of people, it won’t scale and ambitious, capable people will leave unless you move to step 2 once proven that they can execute the assigned work. You are multiplying nothing - output per person is likely diminishing with each person added.
Tiny Micro management; you assign the responsibility for the repeated and independent delivery of the work, but you are still responsible for evaluating the quality (result) of the work and whether or not it is achieving the outcome you are pursuing, and based upon these conclusions you must redesign the process to improve the work and results, to improve the outcome. You can scale further but you are still limited by your ability to review and improve. And of course, ambitious smart people will leave if stuck in this rut. You are not multiplying and output per person is likely diminishing, not at the same rate as above, but still shrinking, with each person added.
Micro management; they own the order of work and the result, you evaluate if the work is achieving the outcome and if not how it should be improved, typically in collaboration with the person. Ambitious people who crave autonomy to make a difference will be wasted if they stay at this level, and if smart on their part, they will leave if they don’t advance to the next step. Once again, you are not multiplying, but you can scale and your output per person is likely staying the same, you now have a linear line rather than a contracting exponential curve.
Delegation; You assign the outcome. The person decides how to achieve it, they create the plan, they implement the tactics to attain it, and they continuously improve the process to deliver the results, all while increasing the return on the investment to achieve the outcome. AND, they continuously evaluate the worth of the outcome and recommend changes to better focus their work. Ambitious, smart people want these jobs. They want the autonomy to make a difference and to belong to, and lead a team of like minded individuals. They are a multiplier and so are you by enabling their results. Every person added to your team increases output per person on an exponential curve. Your organization is scalable.
You want leaders that achieve delegation with every person within their organization. They get there incrementally at a pace that is acceptable to the employee and their organization’s goals. They don’t throw people into the deep end, step 4, and say swim, they start in the shallow end and see if they can get to the other side without putting their foot down. If they can, they go deeper, and so on, until true delegation is achieved. Good leaders know that good people want to be in that deep end and they want a great coach to get them there.
And of course these leaders will hire and staff their teams with people who want the autonomy that true delegation delivers. All parties want to be multipliers.
Give delegation. Demand delegation.