While the adage of “if you want something done right, do it yourself” may be true in many instances, in the world of project management, it is not the ideal approach to managing projects. In fact, it is the exact inverse of what a project manager should do if they have any interest in executing a project successfully. Let’s explore the many benefits of delegating tasks within the project team and how an agile project manager can set their project up for success by diversifying project responsibilities.
Efficiency: The project manager is the CEO of their project and is accountable for the project management triangle: scope, cost and time. In most successful companies, a CEO is surrounded by an executive team, of which each member has clear and distinct responsibilities in their areas of expertise. The project manager should emulate this corporate structure when building the project team because this construct has proven itself over time as a very effective management strategy. It is important to identify the critical business segments of the project and institute subject matter experts to manage these areas. Even though the project manager must accept ownership of everything project-related, this does not mean he or she must be an expert in everything project-related. I believe a successful project manager should practice multitasking 2.0, which by my own definition, is having multiple people perform various tasks. The actualization of efficiency is having multiple actions performed simultaneously and synchronized. I understand it is difficult to delegate major project responsibilities for fear of achieving failure if a team member cannot perform; however, trying to self-perform too many tasks can also lead to failure. A project manager can reach peak efficiency and achieve more project production by mining the full potential out of their project team.
Engagement: We have all been on teams with under-performing members. This under-the-radar and seemingly disinterested member drags the team down and becomes a major obstacle to the project team’s effectiveness. In many scenarios, the cause for this member’s disengagement is because there is a lack of ownership and accountability for their duties. One remedy to address poor performance is to delegate more responsibility to the subpar team member. I agree this solution may seem counterintuitive; however, it can be the team member is feeling that they are not adding any value to the project, especially if they are not being trusted with critical tasks. When a project manager delegates tasks that are vital to the project’s success to the rest of the team, it shows each member is valued and success depends on each of their contributions. A person is more likely to rise to the challenge in action if they feel their actions will directly impact the end result. Critical duties, however, cannot just be dolled out without rigor and governance. Clear and explicit expectations must be communicated, along with a system to monitor and benchmark their progress. Each team member must know the scope of their work and how/when it must be delivered. This level of engagement with the team is necessary to make each active team member accountable and even enable them to become high performers within the team. It is human nature to want to see the fruits of our labor, so this paradigm must be strategically installed to encourage participation and ensure the critical tasks are being performed.
One example of this can be something as simple as project tracker updates. The project manager can spend much time chasing down data to update a tracker or can assign team members the task of updating the tracker with their respective work. Not only will team members take some of the workload off the project manager, but also are more likely to show increased ownership if they are trusted with being the gate keepers of this data. For better or for worse, the data they are responsible for in the tracker will directly correlate to their performance and will be seen amongst the entire project team, which in turn adds accountability. No team member wants to be the weak link and will go through great measures to avoid that stigma, even if it means taking on a bit more responsibility and action.
Execution: Lastly, task delegation is not possible without the proper tools in place. The project manager must identify and provide all the necessary support and resources to the project team for them to be successful. The most important resource a project manager can provide to the team is the project management plan. This document is the playbook for all project-related activities and is a detailed guide for how to execute. The project management plan provides the necessary project governance to allow team members to work independently of each other, yet still be in alignment with their approach and delivery. Included in the project plan will be the stakeholders list, process map, and quality and communication plans which will facilitate how each team member is to perform without micromanagement from the project manager. Another important resource that should be utilized is a centralized document repository for all project and reference documents. When the project manager functions as the sole gatekeeper of project information, this creates a bottleneck in production and discourages efficiency. The ability to obtain project information easily helps team members perform their duties with ease and promotes a more enjoyable work experience. Microsoft Teams and SharePoint have proven to be industry leading applications to house all project documents and aid greatly in team collaboration especially with remote team members. There are many other tools similar to these applications, but is it the responsibility of the project manager to establish these tools early in the project life cycle and require their use for the benefit of the project.
The #1 goal of the project manager is to deliver the project to the client on time and under budget. This is best done when a project team is used to their maximum potential. Delegation of work is critical to any project’s success because the burden and risk is too great for any one person to carry. Fully utilizing the project team not only helps the project, but also benefits the team members with their engagement and visibility to the value they add. If executed correctly, the project manager can become more efficient and methodical in their approach to project delivery when delegating critical task to the team. It is not recommended to self-perform tasks when there are highly-capable people available to support the mission because, at the end of the day, everyone on the project team has the same goal.
Additional project management tips can be heard at Weymouth’s upcoming webinar, “The PMO of the Future: Best Practices for Effective Project Planning,” taking place virtually on August 31, 2021. For additional information and to register click here.