Business Growth & Strategy

Delegate Wholes, Not Pieces

Which would you rather have for lunch? A couple of slices of a large pizza or a 9-inch whole lunch-size pizza of the same volume?

Which would you rather have for dessert? A slice of apple pie or a small individual whole pie?

If you work on an automotive production line, would you like to tighten bolts all day as different cars go by or would you rather be part of a team that builds a whole vehicle?

Most people would prefer the individual pizza and apple pie. Somehow, it is always preferable to receive a whole something rather than a piece of something which has other pieces that go to someone else.

With regard to the production line, it’s been proven that both production and quality go up when people feel responsible for a whole finished product rather than just a small part of it.

In manufacturing, workers in teams now build entire products, often conducting their own quality tests. If an entire factory can be organized this way, why can’t these same principles be applied by managers when they are delegating?

Too often, managers delegate by identifying which element of the work is safest to give away (fewer things can go wrong) and then assigning that “piece” to a subordinate. The manager retains the need to check all work because he or she has also retained many of the pieces. The subordinate ends up with a bunch of random pieces, or tasks, with no finished product with which to identify.

  • Look at what you’re now delegating. Are subordinates truly accountable for results or are they simply preparing inputs into work you ultimately put together?
  • Assess your tolerance for errors. You may not need to check everything. If you have capable people working for you, let them learn, as you coach them, by taking the risks of responsibility.
  • Look at what you’re now doing. If you’re spending too much of your time on the day-to-day activities and too little on planning and organizing the functions your job requires, maybe it’s time to think about letting your subordinates keep the ship afloat while you steer.
  • Find some wholes and delegate them. Make your subordinates in charge of their jobs, totally accountable for results in identifiable areas. You’ll reap the benefits of greater morale and enthusiasm, you’ll gain performance and productivity, and you’ll find out which of your people really have potential for increased responsibilities.
  • Be continually available for coaching but don’t make decisions for your people!

The final word: make sure, when you delegate, that you allow for the necessary authority to do the job. Provide such things as a signature authority and access to key people. Let your people know how they can use your authority when necessary. Be sure to tell them where their authority stops and yours begins.


About:  John A. Page, LFHIMSS

John is an accomplished executive with impressive senior-level strategic management experience and success recognized industry-wide for contributions to healthcare information technology and management systems. Nationally respected on topics of social media, technology and strategic business alignment, he serves as a Vistage Chair and Host of CEOIntroNet TV Chicagoland as well as an advisor to Boards and business leaders.

Category : Business Growth & Strategy

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About the Author: John A. Page, LFHIMSS

John is a highly accomplished executive with impressive strategic leadership experience and success.  He is known as a change agent with expertise in defining business strategies and translating them into high-impact actions, new business op…

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