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In a very support oriented industry, I have noticed that delegation of tasks is crucial in the success of any manager on every level.  In working with a series of small business clients to help them manage their IT needs on a day to day basis, there is a constant challenge when it comes to deciding task priority, project management and resource allocation for our clients.  Understanding the need for delegation is critical in what we do, but implementing the process is entirely different from person to person and account to account.

I believe it is critical for a manager to look at larger issues and bottom lines.  This requires a good manager to understand the skill sets of his employees and their ability to deliver effectively.  Managing the knowledge of our group of consultants is a difficult job.   Our mangers must understand the concepts behind Knowledge Management.  “Knowledge management is the set of practices aimed at discovering and harnessing an organization’s intellectual resources—fully utilizing the intellects of the organization’s people.

Knowledge management is about finding, unlocking, sharing, and altogether capitalizing on the most precious resources of an organization: people’s expertise, skills, wisdom, and relationships” (Bateman, 2004).    Understanding skill sets is a key of delegating and scheduling resources properly.  In our business scheduling is critical.  Utilization of resources is the key to maximizing profit because we sell services.   As the skill sets of our consultants get more diverse and our client needs become more robust, a great manager in our company will need to fully utilize the people in our organization based on best fit.  This type of delegation of responsibility is the top most level of our business model.

The delegation of client needs through the project and daily care of our clients is a trickle down system and rests on the shoulders of lesser mangers.  These managers may not have authority within the hierarchy at our company to effect immediate change, but they do have almost complete authority with their clients to delegate and schedule resources form within our organization and the client’s business.  The managers I refer to are the account mangers and the project leaders.  These managers are critical to the delegation process for an account.  Although, many of the consultants I work with are able to resolve most issues and projects on their own, there are a few clients that require a larger set of skills or just plain hours of work.

Project leaders within our group do a good job of handling many of the primary tasks in a project on their own.  The most critical tasks are rarely delegated and are taken under complete control of the project manager.  This attitude is a double edged sword.  While a consultant can often take a positive lead in regards to accomplishing milestone tasks, they can also push a project behind or overwork themselves trying to do too much.  This area is a very sticky place in our group.  Ultimate responsibility lies with the project lead, but the delegation of project tasks and their completion can often be lost in translation.

I believe that a good project manager within our consulting team takes the time to draw out a project plan with milestones, goals and resource allocation.  The success of the project may lie in their hands, but the completion of individual tasks can be clearly laid out.  The manager could then mentor the other goals not being directly worked on and create opportunities for others rather than a fear of incompletion.

Continued support comes with most every client we have after a large project or implementation.  The support that our business provides is not just technical assistance in computer needs, but also guidance in the areas of Information Management.  Information Technology is more than just the use of computers to communicate.  Information Systems are built on managerial decisions and practices that come from the top of an organization down.  IT infrastructure is built to allow a business to grow and collaborate as well as respond quickly to customers and internal needs.

With all of these moving parts, our consultants must understand the core of delegation.  Although the idea behind delegation in our industry is solid, many technical people have a hard time letting certain areas of their jobs be performed by others.  This is where the daily operations can have issues.  When an IT manager is unable to differentiate his need to work on a complex desktop problem effecting one user and his need to form IT policies in a management meeting that affect all users.  I have often called this “being in the problem”.  When a person is lost in a problem, they can often forget other areas of responsibility.  Delegation can be critical in these instances.  More specialized technicians or a person with less major responsibility may need to look at the problem so that a manger can focus on the bigger picture.

Finding the sweet spot can be difficult in IT.  The more that a person delegates in a technical area, the more likely they are to be unable to address the issue.  “Think about who else needs to know what’s going on, and inform them. Involve the other person in considering this so they can see beyond the issue at hand. Do not leave the person to inform your own peers of their new responsibility. Warn the person about any awkward matters of politics or protocol. Inform your own boss if the task is important, and of sufficient profile” (BusinessBalls, 2006).  The softening of skills is a real concern amongst IT professionals.  But, as IT specialists get older and are able to hoe their managerial skills, the more valuable they will be to their business and their fellow IT specialists.

The bottom line is that all decisions ultimately fall on the manager.  If an employee offends a customer or if the fire inspector is coming, the decisions made are the responsibility of the manager.  Delegation of control and being involved enough o guide is critical.  It is also critical that manager know where their employees need to take the ball and do their jobs and where the management needs to back off and handle its own issues.

Without proper delegation of roles and tasks, no manager will be able to achieve what they need to in order to obtain success.  Minor issues and those not involving high level decisions need to be addressed by down level management.  This frees up the store manager to concentrate on high level decisions that affect the bottom line of the store.  These decisions will lead to employment, profit and opportunity within the company for all employees of the store.

References:

Bateman, T. S., Snell, S.  (2004). Management: The New Competitive Landscape, 6e(pp. 1-102).  New York:  McGraw-Hill

Effective Delegation Skills. Business Balls.com. Retrieved Oct 16, 2006 from http://www.businessballs.com/delegation.htm

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