HomeVolume 7November 2022 5 imperatives of delegation

DR. ICHAK ADIZES tackles the challenging topic of good delegation, which is so essential for a healthy work life. He presents 5 principles that help us to achieve both effectiveness and efficiency, as well as supporting the team members to whom we delegate.

We all know that you cannot do everything. Nobody can do everything.

A good manager should know how to delegate. As a matter of fact, the principle should be to avoid being overwhelmed and being ineffective and inefficient. Put a sign on your desk that says (let’s say that your first name is Michael), “Michael does only what Michael can do.” Which means, if somebody else can do it, Michael shouldn’t do it. Otherwise, if you are the best in everything, you will do everything yourself, and you will fail in everything. The idea is that you do only what only you can do – the tasks for which you are indispensable – and the rest should be delegated.

Now, how can we effectively delegate? What often happens is that we delegate, and the task doesn’t get done the way we wanted, and then we get upset and we don’t want to delegate anymore. We get disillusioned with the people we were delegating to. And we have a big problem.

Effective delegation must have five imperatives. If any one of the imperatives is missing, then the delegation will not work. You’ll be disillusioned and you’ll be disappointed.

So, what are the five imperatives of delegation? What, who, how, when, and monitor. Let me explain.

1. What?

The first imperative is to tell the person or persons you are delegating to what you expect them to do.

2. Who?

Pick the right person for the job. Who completes the task is extremely important. You don’t want to give it to the wrong person, an incapable person. In the wrong hands, the task or project or goal may not work out. You have to choose the right person to delegate to: someone who knows what to do and how to do it. But even this is not good enough, because they won’t know what to do until they know what not to do.
How many times have you told someone to do something and then when it was done you said, “Oh, my God. It’s terrible”?

Choose the right person to delegate to:
someone who knows what to do and how to do it.

3. How?

Tell and/or show them how you expect it to be done.

The how is sometimes even more important than the what because you can undermine the entire task if it is badly implemented.

Unless these points are spelled out it’s not going to work. Why? Telling someone what you want them to do, but not how, and sending them off to implement it in the way they understand the task to be, is like telling a child to cook dinner but giving no further instructions. By the time they do it and you walk into the kitchen, you might very well say, “Oh my God! What did they do?”


4. When?

Tell them by when you expect the task to be done, and who exactly is responsible to see that it gets done.

This is also very important. If you miss the right timing the whole effort may not have been worth it. Completing a task prematurely can be as bad as completing it too late.

So, tell the right person what to do, and how to do it, and by when, and what else? Remember, you may not even be able to imagine the ways in which a person might wrongly implement a task you have delegated to them. So, what must we do?

This brings us to the fifth imperative:

5. Monitor

Monitor the person or people you delegate to, in order to keep the task on track.

I am not talking about micromanagement. If you are going to micromanage, then you may as well do the task yourself. This is different. This is a learning process: the person you delegated to is learning what your expectations are and you are learning what their capabilities are.

Eventually, if you delegate to the right person, you will find yourself spending less and less time explaining what not to do and how not to do it, and even by when to get it done. When you have a really good delegation process in place with the right person, all of the imperatives will already be understood, and the work will get done.

Just thinking and feeling,
Ichak Kalderon Adizes



Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadersh... Read More