The Artlessness of Delegation – Part 5

Overtaking the flight take off…

Is Delegation a subject matter of art or science?  It depends on whom you ask.  A scholar of philosophy will probably claim it as a piece of art because of the strong human interactive angle.  A corporate thought leader, on the other hand, may view the business of delegation as a pure work of science. A simple family man like me, however, will just stick to his humble objective—what in heaven’s name could I have done different to not have missed our plane by mere 10 minutes? Was it a series of delegation faux pas that led to the deplaning of our plan?

Lesson#1:  Qualification of the task

To train a novice, a sensible starting place is low-risk delegations (such as choice of hotels, flights, etc. in my case).  Instead, I straight away outsourced the custody of mission-critical passport! Any act of entrustment should take into account the “criticality” of the tasks.  The journey of delegation should always kick off from the lower-stake peripheries and then gradually make way inwards towards show-stoppers.  One shouldn’t forget that NOT everything qualifies for delegation!

Lesson#2: Clear and firm deadlines

Although I instructed everyone to report back by 12 noon at the mall, and yet we eventually departed at 1 pm—such a mismatch in expectations didn’t happen by chance.  It was an indicator that I had allowed my team to get away with a casual approach towards punctuality in the past.  Often, in business, we delegate work without explicitly issuing a deadline. Or worse, we don’t mean it!  Unfortunately, in today’s rapidly evolving world, a delayed execution is the same as a derailed execution.

Lesson#3: Pre-diligence on the framework

The kids exhibited an impressive flair in picking up the GPS usage.  However, they were oblivious of the ruining role of incorrect system settings! This was something that I knew, and yet I did not bother to pre-check the GPS setting before handing over.  Often, there are specifics of the tasks that only we are aware of.  But because of complacency or in a hurry to get going, we don’t bother to spend enough time to correctly pre-package the delegation framework.

Lesson#4: Implementable back-up plan

Airport directions from the map quest had been preprinted, a useful foresight.  But they should not have been inconveniently locked away in the boot luggage, an inconsequential hindsight!  A handy printout would have ensured a timely seizure of the GPS fiasco.  Sure, all mature professionals understand the importance of risk-planning in the delegation process.   But what good is a risk plan that exists only on papers in the baggage we all carry in our work lives?

Lesson#5: Post-evaluation of the execution

During the operation car-search, there was a clear segregation of tasks between the senior and the junior.  However, where was the senior’s supervisory role?  Asking a fresher to “double-check” around the seats?  That’s not value-add action, that’s behind-the-desk boss talk!  The seniors will do well to remember that the onus on the “double” part of double-check rests on self.  A leader never washes his hands off the delegated task; instead he continues filling the missing gaps.

Lesson#6: The load and role balancing

While Ritu had dual-tasks, did she also have double work-load?  For, once on the phone, most of her time was all about waiting while the other person went hunting for the passport.  Instead, she could have easily multi-tasked, supervising a “junior” Aneesh go through the bags while holding the line.  On the other hand, Misha with her longer, slender arms was more qualified for exploring the car’s blind spots.  Delegation is not just about random work loading of bodies, rather it requires careful quantitative and qualitative mapping of tasks.

If even one of the above six goof-ups had been avoided, we would have been airborne! So the question then arises, how can an experienced CEO mess up so badly?  The answer begins with an obvious point: In the business of delegation, it still matters lesser how much experience we have, than how well we use that experience! Leaders are looked up to for their insight, that’s what earns them the authority of delegation.  However, what good are such insights that don’t get leveraged for the intended objective? 

The above story is a simple one.  I am sure that the readers will have richer self-stories to pick lessons from, many with a lot more wonderful tips than these six lessons.  But then, how many of us are counting our lessons? And on that note, it’s time to bring down curtains on this blog, but not before scoring on at least one lesson:  Which of the following plays the most pivotal role when it comes to the art & science of delegation (votes or comments – both are important value-adds):

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Delegation, Original, Team, Style


  1. It is one of the best blog I have read about leadership , honestly.

  2. Super blog. i Like it.

  3. One can only delegate responsibility, not accountability. In other words, while the execution can be delegated, the ownership of the outcome still resides with the supervisor / manager who delegates.

    One of the biggest hurdles to effective delegation is delegation itself. Mostly new and sometimes seasoned managers are unable to delegate (forget effectiveness) for a variety of reasons (can my subordinate do the task as well as I can? OR I have been doing this all along – what will ‘I’ do if I delegate this task? OR it will take me more time and effort to explain, let me do it myself etc.). On the contrary, when managers are able to delegate effectively, they help their team grow (the team learns to tackle new challenges), they themselves grow (provided they use the new spare time to do value added activities), and in turn enrich the organization (more effective delegation across the board would lead to more people adding more value).

    In a nutshell, delegation should not be a reactionary tool to address a short term need rather a proactive strategy that we as managers should learn to adopt.

    Arun, I cannot say anything about your blogs that hasn’t already been said. They continue to amaze and inspire, and are always a joy to read.

  4. May be there was a simple solution – Just travel with the college prospect to make it to the appointment – and then deal with the issue – if not already taken care of by the time.

  5. Scientific approach in an artistic way(considering the human Nature and capability) is a blend to understand and perform the task in a better way. Whether it is to delegate or to manage it proportionates and bringsout the fruitful result. Scientific way to look up the problem helps in solving the problem logically but the artistic approach binds the environmental factors and reduces the chance of risk.

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The Artlessness of Delegation – Part 5 - Arun Nathani Blog