How Invalid Delegation Poisons the IT Industry

We have all heard about delegation, flat structures and other direct interaction, where everyone is an autonomous combat unit, everyone is great, everyone works responsibly and in general, the team is more like a detachment of ideological builders of communism than a development team. At the heart of all these conversations about autonomy and “flatness” is the thesis, which in short form can be formulated as “let people work, do not lock processes on yourself.” That is, delegate as much as possible, and what you cannot delegate – push it onto your subordinates with a vengeance! No office slavery, just maximum self-awareness! World! Work! May!

This myth is doubly dangerous because we do not all understand its problem. It is considered that delegation fails if the performer is a tomato who does not want or cannot use the data given to her By god manager by power. But more often than not, the problem of the failure of delegation as a practice is that managers or development managers simply do not know how or do not want to truly delegate their powers, but only pretend that they allow subordinates to act independently.

Observing the work of dozens of different IT companies from different segments, I confidently declare: the so-called “delegation of authority” in 90% of cases is a fiction and a way of self-assertion of a manager. Because delegation is a bi-directional process, in which there must be not only a strong performer (which is obvious), but also an intelligent leader with nerves of steel. And now I’ll explain why.

Perfect delegation in a vacuum

For some reason, our managers are used to thinking that delegation is throwing work onto someone else, which you have to do yourself. The story of the directors of factories / enterprises / companies / collective farms and other institutions, who can leave for six months, and without them, everything works fine, warms the soul, cool, like Lake Peipsi in April 1242. Like, the processes are debugged.

What does such a story picture in the imaginary manager’s mind? She draws to him that the director, in fact, has no tasks: everything is done by his subordinates, everything works by itself. He needs to connect only in those cases when he himself wants to. Well, not life, but a fairy tale, right? Walk yourself, kick yours slaves employees, from time to time arranging selective control of their activities. Good – praise, bad – punishment.

The only question is that ideal delegation is a complex mechanism of interaction between an employee and his immediate supervisor, and a dangerous mechanism.

The concept of healthy viable delegation is based on a simple and understandable thesis: any mistake in the course of work on a delegated section of the project simultaneously becomes the mistake of both the performer and the person who delegated this amount of work to him.

The performer must have full authority when making decisions, and the leader must be ready at any time to get involved in the process when necessary.

Otherwise, it is anything but delegation.

That is, it does not happen that the employee messes up – and only the manager is responsible, or vice versa, when in the case of a joint, only the employee is responsible, and the manager comes out dry, and even becomes a personal executioner for the offender. At the same time, there is no delegation, when all the final results must be coordinated with the superior manager at the designated stages, just as there is no completely autonomous delegation when everything works by itself.

The model where the manager becomes the extreme leads to irresponsibility on the part of employees and a loss of trust within the team.

The model, when the employee does not solve anything, and the manager “does not see and does not hear” – to passivity and paralysis of the will, and missed tasks – into a dark nightmare.

Both of these models are the very “protomyths” about the work of delegation.

They work literally until the first serious “flight” of one of the parties, after which the company begins to tighten the screws so that it becomes almost impossible to continue working.

Let’s take a closer look at both cases.

Delegation of authority without responsibility of the executor

If a manager wants to play a “good boss”, he expands the boundaries of the capabilities of his subordinates to the maximum, while calling it “delegation of authority”, although in fact he simply neglects what is happening in his area of ​​responsibility. As a result, DevOps and developers themselves can submit data to the accounting department on the procurement of capacities on AWS, bypassing the boss, administrators – estimates for the purchase of equipment. Such a kind anarchy, where all are brothers to each other. Employees do everything quickly and boldly, without looking around, because they were given carte blanche, with the words “I’ll cover you.”

This “I’ll cover it” in any version – literally a game of Russian roulette.

The manager will be incredibly lucky if he says these words. correct people who are aware of the degree of responsibility and will act carefully. However, as experience shows, people do not like to be responsible and the very first serious flight becomes a problem for the manager; he takes the blow from his superiors on himself, instead of sharing it with the culprits.

“The bosses are always to blame” is a rather convenient thesis, which, however, only works in half of the cases. If the admins have submitted two identical applications for the purchase of equipment, which the bukh paid for, this is a mistake, first of all, of the administrators. That is, the situation here is like with a fool and a loaded gun. If a fool with a gun eventually gets crippled, then it is, first of all, the fault of the fool himself, and only then of the person who invited him to take the gun in his hands.

The same is the case with the “delegation” of powers. If an employee is not responsible for his actions in a “delegated” area, this does not mean that he is not to blame for mistakes. There is a problem with a manager who incorrectly delegated authority

And this is where the territory of the second myth of delegation begins, which grows out of the mistakes of the first. This is when the manager still wants to “delegate”, so that it would be like in the stories about the plant director, but at the same time he absolutely does not trust his subordinates.

Delegation without decision-making power

If the situation above accounts for 10% of cases of pseudo-delegation, then below we will discuss the most frequent and popular problem of modern “effective” management.

How many times have you encountered a situation where more time is spent on making a final decision on an issue than on discussing, planning and developing it?

How often are there situations when “the offer went upstairs” and disappeared there without a trace?

This problem also intersects with the issue of incorrect management, when decisions are made superficially and ineffectively, but it also exists in a situation of so-called “delegation”.

In domestic development and business, we most often encounter such “underdelegation”, when the scope of tasks is shifted to an employee lower in the hierarchy, but at the same time he is not given the right to make even intermediate decisions.

The most striking example is marketing or other external activities. An “effective” manager recruits a team of Chinese dummies, on which not only the work of conditional cold calling is shifted, but in general everything that is possible. All this is served under the sauce of delegation, as if the leader should only make the final decisions, and his subordinates should do the rough work.

Such actions on the part of management lead to a local collapse, since any question in the course of work or negotiations that goes beyond the standard instructions leads to an answer of the form:

I need to consult with my supervisor.

That is, the employee is not even able to outline the boundaries of probabilities, he is simply paralyzed in making any decisions and performs exclusively the role of a talking doll.

Such pseudo-delegation models stretch processes that, with the proper participation of all stakeholders, last a couple of hours, into incredible weeks and months. The situation is getting worse when the manager does not care about the time of his subordinates… And this is a problem not only of marketing or PR, but also of outsourcing development. Endless meetings, approvals, phone calls of developers with a client, field visits and so on, when a project manager or other administrative person plays with delegation and a flat structure, involving subordinates in unnecessary activities instead of letting people do their work, is also incorrect.

The manager must be ready at any time to fully engage in the process delegated to the employee and take it upon himself.

This term can be printed and given to any executive when hiring. For some reason, managers constantly forget that delegated authority is still their authority… That is, if the production necessity requires it, the boss must immediately join the work process together or even instead of the person to whom he entrusted this work front. Moreover, this inclusion should be initiated not only at the initiative of the manager, but also at the request of the employee.

Management often ignores the fact that lower-level employees should have the right to force higher-level specialists to join the issue in the event of a delegated task.

This is what ideal delegation should look like

This whole story can be condensed into a series of simple theses.

Delegation is the transfer of a task and the right to make intermediate or final decisions.

Delegation does not imply the complete transfer of responsibility for the process and the result to the performer.

Delegation should imply the sharing of responsibility for the process in adequate proportions.

Delegation should be viewed as a temporary process and be ready to return it to your task area.

Don’t play with flat structures and delegation where you don’t need to. Developers should write code, not sit in meetings with a client. PR people should be PR, and not run between the contractor and the head of their department, like messengers.

And managers should lead and be responsible, and not cast a languid glance at the office and think “how well I delegated everything to others.”


Powerful VDS with DDoS protection and the latest hardware. All this about our epic servers… The maximum configuration is 128 CPU cores, 512 GB RAM, 4000 GB NVMe.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *