Delegation refers to the extent to which a superior passes down the hierarchy, to his or her subordinate, the responsibility and authority for the accomplishment of a particular task. This does not include the delegate doing something which is already part of their existing job role.
In modern business more and more managers are being given the task of carrying out strategic activities that have an impact on the entire business. As such they face the need to delegate some of their responsibilities lower down the hierarchy. So, what exactly do we mean by delegation?
Modern management theory suggests managers, should delegate and consult more often. When a manager delegates a task to someone lower down the structure they effectively give him, or her, the authority to carry out a certain function. However, the senior manager remains responsible (accountable) for the function. So how is delegation effective?
- It allows for a degree of empowerment to be installed within an organisation and this should help build self-respect amongst employees and allow them to have more control over what they perform.
- What is delegated must not be the rubbish jobs or simply those tasks for which the superior considers themselves to be too busy. If this is known to exist within an organisation it can breed resentment.
- Any act of delegation requires careful planning and preparation. All concerned must be clear as to what has to be done. If not what is supposed to free the senior member of staff to concentrate on other issues will, in fact, lead to them having to return to the very tasks they delegated.
- Employees, to whom tasks have been delegated, must be fully aware of why they are being given them and must be given the full authority to carry out the necessary tasks.
- Once tasks have been delegated the senior manager must not interfere.
- Those selected for delegated tasks must possess the correct skills, training etc, else they will under-perform and the exercise will have been a failure.
- All the necessary resources and support must be given to those charged with carrying out the delegated tasks.
Much of the success of delegation will rest on selecting the right person to carry out the tasks. By consulting employees managers are trying to develop a greater sense of involvement. Opinions are being sought prior to decisions being made and put into operation. However, care must be taken to make all aware that those at the top have ultimate responsibility for policy, though offering consultation and then ignoring it could result in frustrated employees.
Another trend within business is that of consultation. Increasingly, employees are being asked for their opinions in a variety of formats. It is worth noting that this is another example of how you, as students of business and management, need to think holistically and make LINKS between sections of your course. This more open and consultative form of management is central to many of the ideas we have taken from what is loosely called Japanese management. Kaizen, for example, is central to lean production and continuous improvement. However, it radiates through all parts of the company. Everyone in the business is concerned with improving productivity and quality. They must therefore be engaged and consulted and managers will need to explain why doing things in a certain way is central to its successful application.
Indeed, in most contemporary management approaches, the need for being open and consultative with employees is central. When you arrive at other issues later in the course think about the importance of consultation to:
- Leadership styles and the growing trends of involving and empowering employees
- Just-in-time manufacturing and the need to make all involved aware of the need to balance stock flows very carefully
- Kanbans and the need to move materials effectively around any production environment
- Time-based management and the co-operation needed from every employee to reduce the time from thinking of the idea to having a finished and marketable product
- Teamworking and the need of people to work in small and effective groups
- Cell production and the need to work on specific products or parts of products
Managers seek acceptance by those affected by strategic developments and open consultation is one way of trying to build acceptance and motivation amongst employees.
Empowerment is where an organisation provides the means by which employees can exercise power over their working lives.
Delegation provides power to an employee to carry out a specific task. Empowerment is a much broader concept as it implies a degree of freedom about what to do, and how to do it.
Employees are encouraged to think and make decisions for themselves. The old environment in which the boss 'always knew best', caused conflict and disagreement. Today many firms consider that efficiency will improve if they allow employees the opportunity to be involved in the decision making process and have some autonomy (independence) in their working environment. This should allow employees to become more flexible and adaptable.
To be successful empowerment must:
- Have the full backing of management
- Have the trust of management
- Be seen as a partnership
It may encounter difficulties if it:
- Attempts to use people not correctly trained for the job
- Is seen by some managers as loss of their authority
- If those to whom the authority has been delegated abuse their new power