EB121 - Delegating Responsibility © Question:   When most people talk about how organizations share power and get things done, they speak of "delegating authority.”  Why do you use the term “delegating responsibility?”

Larry:  Since we risk our reputation as a manager each time we delegate our work to someone, I like to put the emphasis on carefully describing what needs to be done.  Often managers don't spend enough time outlining both the authority and responsibility they are delegating.  I think both must be made clear, giving the person who receives the assignment definite borders within which he or she can operate using their own judgment.

When a person understands what we require of them, the weight of responsibility is often its own force of accountability, especially for someone with an active conscience and a good work ethic.  As managers, we should remain close to work processes and hold people reasonably accountable because our stewardship will be judged by the practices of those acting on our behalf. 

Sometimes the simple, obvious, things are the most important in delegating responsibility.   You must first choose reliable people, and second, provide them with the necessary training and documentation to fulfill the customer’s requirements.  If you fail to carefully administer each part of this delicate recipe, you may be presumptively mixing a formula for failure.