Previously, in “Learnings as a Software Engineer Techlead”, I’ve alluded to the 75/25 rule, where if you are ~75% certain that someone will correctly execute a given project/task, then delegate. The other ~25% is the unknown space that the person needs in order to learn, explore, make errors, innovate and grow.
If the project/task was decided to be delegated, what comes next?
Clarity of Goals
One common challenge I’ve confronted when delegating was how unpredictable and uncontrollable the results felt upon handing over the work. This unstructured approach often left me thinking how I could decrease the non-completion risk by diminishing the delegated scope, and created confusion on the delegatee side on how they could proceed.
One tidbit of information from the “Who not How” book provided the guidance and structure to unlock this issue:
(…) research has found that teams who have high levels of autonomy but low clarity goals, as well as little performance feedback, perform worse than teams with low autonomy.
It is claimed in the above research that teams which have high autonomy, high goal clarity and regular feedback on their results, were observed to have their performance shooting through the roof.
Apart from regular feedback, goal clarity is incredibly important, and even though it might sound obvious, it can be overlooked and drowned out on the process of delegation.
Clarity, in Practice
After the above realization, I’ve made it a priority for each piece of delegated work to clearly define what was expected as an outcome, its definition of done, important milestones and deadlines, when should an issue be scaled to me, and which are the ownerships for each of the participants.
All of the above communicated in a clear and concise way, and preferably publicly documented to increase accountability and decrease ambiguity (depending on the situation, merely communicating these verbally might be enough, especially if the task is simple).
The Delegation Formula
Given the above, the proposed formula for delegation is:
Delegation = [ 75/25 rule -> Goal Clarity + Autonomy + Regular Feedback ]