What’s your delegating style – McDonalds or Ikea?

How do you delegate?
A McDonalds delegator specifies in precise detail what is to be done and how – but not leaving room for the delegatee to take a different (and perhaps better) approach. The delegatee learns little from the exercise. The delegation is micromanaged, and the delegator spends too much time on the task. Therefore the delegation is inefficient.

The Ikea delegator gives instructions which may appear to have been interpreted from another language, and when the delegatee receives the instructions, some key “bits and pieces” may be missing. The delegatee has a general idea of what the end picture should be, but can spend a great deal of time getting to an imperfect result. Given the time involved, the cost of the delegation may be significantly greater if the task had been undertaken only by the delegator. Also, the end result may not be satisfactory and the delegator may spend more time correcting or redoing the task. Again, the delegation is inefficient.

Tips for Effective Delegation

Consider the appropriate person to delegate to.
Except in exceptional circumstances, no more than one level of staff should be involved in the delegation. Avoid the partner delegating to the senior associate who delegates to the 1st year solicitor who delegates to the summer clerk. This results in enormous duplication of effort which cannot be recovered from the client.

Explain how the task fits into the whole picture.
Giving a brief background to the matter puts the
task in context and helps the person being given the task understand what is required.

Explain fully what is required – outcomes and expectations.
If you have a picture in mind of what the outcome will be, explain that. If a research project for example, will the outcome be a 20 page treatise or a 1 page summary? Consider giving guidance on how to do the task, particularly if there is one way which will be significantly more efficient – but don’t micromanage. Set out any deadline, and give pointers to any relevant resources. Most importantly in terms of costs, explain the expected outcome in terms of length of time to be expended, (is this a 5 hour job or a 1 hour job?).

Ask the person being given the task if they understand what they are expected to do.
If necessary, get them to tell you in their own words. Emphasise that they should come back for further direction or with questions if they are not clear about anything.

Give feedback on completion of the task.
This is the only way of ensuring continuing improvement and development.