Delegating Project Work for Minimal Risk and Maximum Reward


Feel uncomfortable with delegation? It's only natural. After all, even when you delegate the work, you still maintain the accountability. So, what can possibly be gained?  The answer is easy - a lot!  Delegation is key to your ability to manage and lead - and it's a must-have skill for every manager and team leader.  Read on for more.

What is delegation? It's the ability to organize work and allocate assignments to others. That sounds simple - but it's not.  There are consequences to both sides.  If you delegate improperly, projects may fail - or work may not get done.  On the other hand, there may come a time when your project, and ultimately you, will suffer the consequences of an inability to let go. Still, learning to overcome the "not invented here (and by me)" syndrome can be difficult. Delegation may be an essential management skill, but it's not instinctive human behavior. So what's a manager to do? Turn delegation into a "process" and follow a "delegation" roadmap to minimize risk and maximize reward.

Get Down to the Business of "Delegating"

Delegation is essential to management success. It is often necessary just to get things done, to meet schedules and produce expected deliverables, but it is also a key to effective and meaningful leadership. When delegating, the project manager examines the various responsibilities and tasks at hand, and rather than assuming and completing those tasks and responsibilities on his/her own, that manager decides to assign the work to others. This is the business of delegating.

4 Keys to Delegate With Confidence

Delegation is more than a management concept - it's an essential skill that incorporates analysis, planning, awareness and self-confidence. These four(4) components are combined and applied to establish the means by which work can be delegated and responsibility can be accepted. This "give and take" is essential to successful delegation.

  • Analysis – To review the work at hand and considering the requirements, available time, and resource constraints, to make the determination that the work is either suitable or unsuitable for delegation.
  • Planning – To identify capable staff members for the assignment of delegated tasks and responsibilities, to set overall guidelines for completion, and then to properly assign that work.
  • Awareness – To understand the fragile and delicate balance of project team dynamics, and to delegate work fairly, executing effective methods to monitor progress.
  • Self-confidence – The ability to believe in yourself, to resist the fear of delegation, and to trust others so that your staff can evolve, and the work can be completed in a timely and productive manner.

Creating An Approach that Works for You

Applying these four (4) variables, you can create your own approach to delegating work, designed to suit your needs and circumstances.  The whole point is to give yourself a realistic foundation for delegation decision making.

What type of project work can I delegate?

Step 1. Consider project management responsibilities, and assess the impact and risks associated with each. Determine what you need to delegate and what you can delegate. A good rule of thumb is to weed out strategic and motivational responsibilities, from specific "work effort" tasks. For example, you should probably not delegate the creation of a project strategy, but you can certainly delegate preparation of the presentation explaining that strategy.

To whom can I delegate?

Step 2. Evaluate your team, and select appropriate "delegate-to" resources carefully. Based on the availability of these resources, you may need to delegate to someone who is not fully ready. However, if you understand the risks, you can mitigate potential negative impact.

How do I prepare staff to accept delegated tasks and responsibilities?

Step 3. Establish expected results for delegated work. For example, if you are delegating the preparation of a project Governance Plan, and you have a specific format in mind, let that be known.

How do I protect myself and the project?

Step 4. Remember the keys - communication, monitoring, and intervention.  You must be able to clearly communicate your expectations for how and when delegated work is to be performed (and be prepared to get feedback and be open to new ideas).  Once work is delegated, you must monitor progress and receive regular status updates (without micro-managing).  And, above all, if there are apparent problems and issues, you must be prepared to intervene and provide corrective guidance (and for serious problems, to take corrective action).  You must also be prepared to provide support and be an effective "mentor".


When you delegate, it is important that your team members acknowledge their respective roles and responsibilities.... i.e. while they may complete the work, you maintain the accountability. This does not alleviate team member obligations to properly complete the work assigned, but it does set the stage for monitoring and if necessary, for intervention. For optimum results (and to avoid bruised egos), managers should clearly establish standardized practices and procedures to monitor progress and performance.


For more on this subject continue reading our next featured articles:

How to Offer Constructive Criticism
Common Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


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