Determining What Can Be Delegated

I have talked quite a bit about delegation in the past, but one topic that I haven't really covered is how to work out what work can be delegated and to whom. In this post I would therefore like to explore this topic a bit further as this was one of the things that was also confusing me.

Letting Go

As I have mentioned quite a few times before, the hardest part of delegation is getting over the fear of losing control. This is only natural as often we have come up from being a strong maker, where we always thought that we "done the best job".

Write It Down!

In doing some research I came across a technique that I thought was very useful in identifying what tasks can be delegated and it goes along the following lines.

  1. Create an excel spreadsheet with columns labelled Must, Delegate, Candidate, Has Knowledge?, Has Experience? & Has Authority? respectively.

  2. In the Must column, write down all the tasks that you believe are your responsibilities & keep you occupied.

    Examples of this may be things like doing code reviews, planning deliveries & communicating with the product owners.

  3. Next we add all the tasks which we deem to be crucial to the success of the team, but we don't get around to doing them, or do them very badly. These should also be added to the Must column.

    Examples of this may be having weekly 1:1 meetings with the team and creating personal growth plans.

  4. If we have any tasks that we have already delegated to someone else, then these should be written in the Delegate column.

    This may be things like code reviews that are done by other team members or some design tasks.

Once you have done all of the above, the next step is to see if all the items in the Must column must really be there. Often, we land up putting everything there as we feel we are the ones that must do it. In order to verify that all the Musts should be there, you can ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Does the task require and unique skill or responsibility that I only have?
  2. Does the task push me out of my comfort zone?

If the task at hand doesn't meet both requirements above, then this task can marked to be handed off to someone else. A nice way to determine who could handle the task is to imagine that you have taken some time off and try to think who would naturally fill the position.

Once the process above has been completed, you should place a potential team member in the Candidate column. In addition, you also need to fill out the other columns, namely

  • Has Knowledge? - Do they require any training to get the job don?
  • Has Experience? - Do they have the knowledge, but just don't practice it enough?
  • Has Authority? - How do people perceive the person?

Letting Them Know

The last part of the process would be to let the individual candidates know what is expected of them. For this I would say to draw up a one pager document explaining what is required with them. For this I would recommend the items that I listed in the How To Delegate post to ensure that the candidate knows exactly what is expected of them. After all, the worst thing is to have ambiguity as the task won't be done as you expect it to be.

For me, finding a better way of determining what tasks can be delegated was something I struggled with and if you struggle with the same thing, then I hope that you found this post useful.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa