HOW TO MINIMIZE THE RISKS IN DELEGATING A TASK
Understanding the risks involved in delegating a task will help you to anticipate problems and monitor progress. So form contingency plans, take action to reduce risk, and intervene in good time before minor problem lead to major failure.
When monitoring a delegate’s progress, keep an eye to those areas of the task that you consider to be of high risk. For example, you may delegate the control of customer credit limits. Here, there is a risk too high a level of credit being given to customers whose credit history is either unknown to you or who have been late payers in the past.
This task will therefore require much more careful and consistent monitoring than a lower risk task, such as the maintenance of office equipment. Keep a list of all the risks, and periodically check whether any of them can be eliminated.
Using Management by Exception
Management by exception is a highly effective control method whereby a delegate informs their manager only of those exceptional events that require major decisions. You should not expect to hear about actions that proceed as planned, only of deviations from the plan. For example, a sales executive is asked to handle key accounts. As long as sales targets and profit margins are maintained, the delegator need not to be involved in decisions. But if a customer suddenly asks for a higher discount, with a resulting drop in margins, the delegate must seek a decision from the manager.
Building In Controls
Key controls, such as a scheduled time-frame or specific budgetary limits, can be used as efficient constraints to guide and monitor a delegate. If tasks start missing deadlines or overrunning on costs, you must talk to your delegate immediately in order to identify the root causes of the problem as soon as possible.
Ask the delegate to supply you with regular reports, both written and verbal, to gauge whether your initial brief was at fault or if the failures or deficiencies are a result of poor performance by the delegate. If the brief is at fault, revise it at once. If the problem lies with the delegate, consider providing further training or, if necessary, reassign the task to another delegate.
Taking Fail-safe Actions
To ensure that you achieve the objective stated in the brief, it is prudent to build in an alternative course of action in case events do not follow expectations. For example, you may be using a bright but inexperienced delegate to maintain sufficient stock levels to keep one of your most important customers regularly supplied with a particular item. Here, you can minimize risk by ensuring that contingent stock is always available if the delegate under-orders or if the customer increases the units ordered unexpectedly.
Things To Do
- List all possible risks in order of importance.
- If possible, reduce a risk at the briefing stage.
- Monitor all risks during the delegation.
- Deal with the root cause of problems immediately.
- Have contingency plans ready for immediate implementation.
- Never gamble when taking risks: act on judgments based on probabilities.
- Ensure that bad news is not kept from you by a worried delegate.
- Try to anticipate problem areas for the delegate.
- Make contingency plans just in case things go wrong.
- Speedily remove delegates who make several serious mistakes.