How To Delegate on IT Projects
Yes, we understand. Nobody can do it better than you. Let’s get that out of the way up front. We understand that whatever you set your mind to, you are the best person to get it done. That’s not what this article is about. This article is about the unreasonableness of thinking that you as a person in the IT project management role need to do everything yourself.
There may be a number of reasons why you feel this way. You may conclude that if you want it done right the first time that you need to do it yourself. Or, you may reason that it takes more time to explain an activity to someone else than it would to just do it yourself. Perhaps you have been burned in the past by assigning work to someone who said they could get something done and then left you holding the bag.
All three reasons are based upon faulty reasoning. Why? Because it does not scale. You will only be able to achieve so much success in IT project management if you feel you must do everything yourself.
4 Problems About Doing It All Yourself
Your plate is already full if you are performing your job to the best of your ability. There is planning, meetings, reports, escalations, mitigations, counseling, stewarding, babysitting and a host of other official and non-official project management activities that fall under your purview. It is highly unlikely that anyone will come up to you and say “can I help you with that?”
It’s not that people don’t care; it’s just that everyone else’s plate is extremely full already as well. It’s up to you to delegate to others. Otherwise, you will experience the following side effects of trying to do it all yourself.
1. You Will Slow Things Down
If you are dumb enough (yes, dumb enough) to pick up a task or activity that is on the critical path of a project, then you will almost for a certainty slow things down. Yes, it’s tempting to pick up an activity that needs to get done, especially if you have experience in that particular area. But, with all of your other project responsibilities you will quickly find that these critical path items will suffer.
2. You Will Burn Out
Let’s say you decide to pick up these items that are on the critical path in addition to your job. You decide to not delegate these to someone else. Sure, you may be able to pull double duty for a short period of time. This means you come in early, stay late, and most likely work some weekends as well. Over the long haul this will begin to negatively impact your mood, your relationships with others, your patience, and even your health.
3. You Will Make Mistakes
Since your mood, relationships, patience, and health are deteriorating because you think you can do it all yourself…you will make mistakes. You are tired. You are frazzled. Your judgment becomes blurred and your insight and experience begins to be replaced by raw, exposed, non-objective emotions. It is when you get into this state of mind that mistakes will start to occur.
4. Your Team Will Suffer
Your role is to be a leader. Your role is not to be a doer. You have a team of people that are doers. They look to you for direction, guidance, navigation, obstacle clearing, and peace of mind. You are doing them a disservice if you join their ranks and get sucked into the details and quagmire of the project like everyone else. You need to rise above the morass and provide a crystal clear path to follow.
There is no compelling reason to feel like you have to do everything yourself based upon the list above. It doesn’t work and you, your team, the project, and ultimately the company can be affected due to this erroneous mindset.
Are There Things You Shouldn’t Delegate?
Now that we’ve made a strong case for delegation, are there certain things that you should not delegate to others? The following principles can be applied to help you make this decision on what you should keep for yourself.
- Keep Those Activities that ONLY YOU Can Get Done – There are activities that only you can get done. This may be meeting with the executive team to provide an update on where things stand. Or, you may find that you need to work with a troubled client to smooth things over from a miss that happened on the project due to poor communication. These are the types of things that you, and only you, can accomplish in a graceful and elegant manner and not something you would delegate to someone else.
- Activities You Can’t Clearly Describe – There are activities that come up in IT projects that are hard to describe. When you work in the technology field you will find that there are problems that are vague and solutions that are shrouded in complexity and mystery. If you find yourself having a hard time describing what you need to get done, you will most likely want to keep this for yourself until the objective is clear enough in your mind that you can describe it someone else. Otherwise, you may send someone on a wild goose chase and burn up unnecessary cycles of time.
- (Possibly Do Some) Non-Critical Path Items – The ideal is that you don’t own anything directly other than managing the project. However, you may find that your team is short-handed, someone is out sick, or you may even have a little extra time to help out in one area or another. If you make the decision to pick up a task yourself for completion and not delegate it to others, then make sure it is something that is not on the critical path.
How to Effectively Delegate
There are a number of degrees of delegation you can take advantage of in your role. Below are a few you may want to consider.
- Educate yourself – You can assign someone on your team to go gather all the facts and then come back to you to discuss the path best to take.
- Give me a recommendation – You can assign someone with the responsibility of assessing the problem and then coming back with the best course they would recommend.
- How are things going? This method assumes you have a lot of faith in the person that has been assigned the task that all you do is check in with them every now and then to see how their activity is coming along.
- Don’t pass go – Set a point in time that they come back to you to discuss how much further you would like them to go on a particular task.
- Keep going until I say stop – Give someone the opportunity to take a task as far as they want to and not stop unless you ask them to stop.
- Get it done – This is the ultimate in delegation. Here’s the problem, go fix it, and then come back and tell me what you did. You need to have a lot of faith in the person when you go down this path. This is ultimately how you want to operate with your team.
Delegation in IT project management is no simple task. There are a lot of moving parts and complexity on any project you are managing. You want to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of having to do everything by yourself otherwise you, your project, and your team will suffer because of that bad decision. Try ProjectManager.com FREE for 30 days and see how much more of your time is freed up to get the things done that really make a difference to your project!