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Project Portfolio Management

How to Decide When & What to Delegate (Plus Tips for Doing It Well)

Published By Team AdaptiveWork

No person is an island, and even the very title “Project Manager” would suggest that you are in charge of managing more than just yourself. So why, then, is it often so difficult for managers to hand off tasks to the rest of the team? Work overload is a very common phenomenon, especially among management, yet only 28% of companies provide support for improving project management skills in delegation.

The importance of project delegation for achieving consistent success without burning yourself out as a manager should be apparent, but many still find it a difficult element of their role to master. If you’re looking to improve your project management skills by boosting your powers of delegation, here’s how to start.

How to Identify What to Delegate

In basically every project you ever undertake as a PM, you will have a team of reports whom, in one way or another, you are directing how to work. Therefore, project delegation is already happening without much effort at all. The only issue is making it more intentional.

A good way to identify what you should be delegating is to write out your task list and, for each task, ask the following questions:

Could someone else do this?

While you might be very skilled at your role, the level of difference between you and the next person is probably in less than double-digit percentages, which means that the majority of tasks that you do can also be done by someone else.

Is this a repetitive task I could teach someone else to do?

A common refrain of non-delegating managers is, “It’d take longer to show someone how to do this than to just do it myself.” While this may be so the very first time, if it’s something that crops up regularly, it is probably worth taking the time to show someone else so it can be taken off your plate permanently.

Do I need to do all of this task?

Though your experience and skill-level might make you a better candidate for completing a certain task, it doesn’t mean your time will be best spent by doing all of it. Often it might only be necessary to put in a third of the work while a report completes most of the heavy lifting.

Consider a master baker putting the finishing touches on a wedding cake, even if the majority of it was baked by assistants. The result is the same, but the most skilled artisan gets to complete three cakes in the time it would have taken them to do one on their own.

Will waiting to do this myself unnecessarily delay the project?

Time is a finite resource in project management. In a perfect world, we’d all get to finish off necessary tasks exactly how we’d like to, but this can’t always happen.

The old maxim, “Done is better than perfect” also applies to delegation. If waiting to do something yourself is going to force a delay on the project, it’s best to hand it off to someone else.

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How to Do Delegation the Right Way

Trust your team

Micro-managers or “helicopter managers” don’t just stress themselves out by sweating the small stuff – they also unnerve and undermine the rest of the team. The best thing you can do as a manager is to take a leap of faith and trust the people around you to perform their roles properly while you focus on delivering the most value you can in your own.

Make training a high priority

If one of the reasons holding you back from delegating more is that “no one can do what I do,” then you have to ask yourself, why not? As a team leader, it is also incumbent on PMs to ensure the members of their team are always improving their skill sets and thus able to take on a wider range of tasks. If you’re making upskilling and role-specific education a priority, it should be easy to pinpoint what exactly it is that needs to be improved to help your delegation efforts.

Clear the Way for Full Visibility

A major roadblock for delegation is not knowing exactly who to call on in a pinch and how that’s going to affect overall project delivery. However, with the right project management tools, it is now possible to have incredible transparency on both resource availability and how tasks are progressing. This enables you to have greater confidence in where you’re reassigning the task as well as being able to oversee its progress directly.

To learn how Planview AdaptiveWork’s suite of project management solutions can help, watch a live demo today.

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Written by Team AdaptiveWork