The 7 Levels of Delegation

Empowerment with Boundaries and Clarity

I have delegated the packaging and sending of my books.

I delegated all requests and inquiries around licensing.

I delegated brand marketing on my social media accounts.

And I am now delegating the total redesign of my website.

Organizations are complex systems and research says that such systems often work best when control is distributed. This means, authority is pushed into all corners of the organizational network. However, many people prefer not to “lose control”. Therefore, in order to make them feel safe, we must give people the feeling that they have some control over their situation. That’s why a person wanting to delegate work to someone else can benefit from the use of the seven levels of delegation.

1. Tell: You make a decision for others and you may explain your motivation. A discussion about it is neither desired nor assumed.

2. Sell: You make a decision for others but try to convince them that you made the right choice, and you help them feel involved.

3. Consult: You ask for input first, which you take it into consideration before making a decision that respects people’s opinions.

4. Agree: You enter into a discussion with everyone involved, and as a group you reach consensus about the decision.

5. Advise: You will offer others your opinion and hope they listen to your wise words, but it will be their decision, not yours.

6. Inquire: You first leave it to the others to decide, and afterwards, you ask them to convince you of the wisdom of their decision.

7. Delegate: You leave the decision to them and you don’t even want to know about details that would just clutter your brain.

The 7 Levels of Delegation is a symmetrical model. It works in both directions. Level 2 is similar to level 6, when viewed from the opposite perspective. And level 3, asking for input, is the reverse of level 5, which is about offering input.

Key Decision Areas

The seven levels of delegation should not be applied to individual tasks and deliverables. Instead, they should be applied to key decision areas.

Defining key decision areas is about erecting a fence around self-organization, while increasing and decreasing the delegation level (per key decision area) is about finding the appropriate level of control.

The seven levels of delegation can be used to define how decision-making is delegated from a manager to an individual or a team, from a team or individual to a manager, and between individuals or teams in a peer-to-peer manner.

Some examples:

· A CEO has set Mergers & Acquisitions at delegation level 1, and, therefore, she simply tells all employees in an email about the takeover of another company.

· A project manager has set Project Management Method at delegation level 2, and therefore he sells the idea of introducing an agile project management framework in the project team.

· Team members have set Vacation Days at level 3, and, therefore, they consult their fellow team members first whenever one of them wants to go on a vacation.

· The facilitator of a workshop has set Topics and Exercises at level 4, and, therefore, she discusses the available options with her class; together, they agree on the details of the program.

· A consultant knows that Key Technologies for his customer is set at level 5, and, therefore he advises his customer about which technologies to use, but he lets the customer make the final call.

· A mother knows that Boyfriends cannot be anything else than level 6, and, therefore, she gently inquires about the name and background of her daughter’s latest object of desire.

· A writer delegates Printing & Binding at level 7 to his professional printer because, as a writer, he has absolutely no clue how to get his words stuck onto the thin slivers of a deceased tree.

Finding the right level of delegation is a balancing act. It depends on a team’s maturity level and the impact of its decisions. Distributed control in an organization is achieved when delegation of authority is pushed as far as possible into the system. However, circumstances may require that you start by telling or selling, gradually increasing the delegation level of team members and widening their territories.

This article is an excerpt from the free book #Workout, chapter Delegation Boards & Delegation Poker.

Jurgen Appelo is Europe’s most popular leadership author, listed on Inc.com’s Top 50 Management Experts and 100 Great Leadership Speakers. His latest book Management 3.0 #Workout, full of concrete games, tools, and practices, is available as a FREE pdf, and in paperback, Kindle and ePub versions. Get your copy here: http://www.management30.com/workout

#Workout, Jurgen Appelo http://www.management30.com/workout

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