How to Delegate a Project Work Package & be Confident it will be Done

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Last updated on
31st May, 2022
28th Sep, 2018
How to Delegate a Project Work Package & be Confident it will be Done

Delegating project work-packages is a force-multiplier. It is how you get your project done without having to be there to do it.

Sure, on a large project, that’s how it works. But far too many project managers find it hard to hand out what they consider to be important tasks.

  • What if they don’t do it right?
  • I need to be in control of this
  • If I don’t do it, people will wonder what I am doing.
  • I don’t want to over-burden my team members
  • What if they keep bothering me with loads of questions?

Only one of those excuses is even remotely plausible…

It’s the second. The rest is, frankly, signs of insecurity or bad management. Not only does delegation amplify your personal effectiveness, but it is also a powerful way to:

  • develop people
  • build motivation
  • show trust and
  • optimize your use of resources

With so many reasons to delegate a project task well, you should be doing it as much as possible. But that still leaves a lingering doubt in your mind. “How can you be sure it will be done and done right?”

The Top Ten Secrets of Delegating with Confidence

Let’s take a look at the ten tips to improve your project management delegation if you want to do it effectively.

1. Right Reasons
Let's face it, there are plenty of poor reasons to delegate:

  • to offload an unpleasant work package,
  • to punish a colleague with extra work,
  • to show favoritism with the plum roles, or
  • to lay off the risk of your own failure.

Good project managers, however, choose to delegate:

  • to open up opportunities
  • to develop people,
  • to enhance team efficiency, and
  • to show trust.

As with so much else, intention matters.

2. Right Work

Carefully select the work package that you are going to delegate. Avoid choosing something that absolutely requires your full attention, for example, because it is confidential. Nor should you delegate work that is so trivial as to be an insult.

Delegate worthwhile work packages that provide an opportunity to:

  • demonstrate real achievement,
  • learn something new, or
  • make significant progress in a worthwhile skill.

3. Right Person

Match the person to the task:

  • The right person can do the task well, yet can learn from the process.
  • They have some relevant skills and experience, but not all the knowledge yet.
  • They must also have the time available to do a good job, and
  • They should ideally have the right strengths and interests to savour the job.

This is not just for their benefit. You will be able to have much more confidence that the right person will finish the work properly, than others whom you have not selected carefully.

4. Right Level

Remember that work packages that you delegate are part of your project. Therefore, you remain accountable for them.

So, to manage the risk to you, to them, and to your organization, you need to delegate the right level of responsibility. This will depend on:

  • the amount of their experience,
  • the criticality, and difficulty of the task, and
  • the consequences of failure.

Delegate full authority where you can, but reserve more right to check, review and intervene, as the risk level increases.

5. Right Briefing

A common fear with delegation is the constant interruptions when the person you delegated to needs more and more information. Pre-empt this by taking the time to brief really well.

"It would be quicker to do it myself" you might think. Yes, maybe it would... the first time. Think of delegation (and the briefing part in particular) as an investment.

For big work packages, consider drawing up a Work Package Description. This should contain:

  • Some background to provide context
  • The outcome you require, along with detailed specifications or quality measures
  • The deadline that they must meet
  • The level of authority you are granting

You may also want to include

  • A work breakdown that specifies necessary steps or a detailed process
  • Any admin or reporting requirements
  • The budget and resources that go with the work package

6. Right Commitments

When you have briefed, check their understanding.

If you get a yes, check that they believe they have everything they need (knowledge, skills, and resources).

If you get a yes, finally check "are you committed to getting this done, by this deadline?" Look them in the eye. Indeed, if you have drafted a Work Package Description, ask them to sign it.

7. Right Monitoring

The ultimate risk of every work package will always remain with you. So, for your sake as well as theirs, be sure to monitor their progress regularly.

The frequency and depth of your monitoring will depend partly on your assessment of the risk, and partly on how they are progressing.

8. Right Reviews

When you monitor, the way you conduct a review will often determine the level and motivation and learning you leave in your wake.

As a simple rule of thumb…

  • For poor performance, find what is wrong and show how to do it right. Better still, start by asking them how they would do it next time. People learn more by figuring things out for themselves.
  • For good performance, find what has worked and show how to make it a habit. Use the "what one thing that will make the most difference?" formula for recommending performance improvement.

9. Right Rewards

If I do something for you, I deserve a reward. My own success and feelings of improving skill-level will be a part of that, but the three things you can offer that will enhance my feelings of reward are:

  • recognition - to show that you are aware of my achievement,
  • praise - a simple compliment goes a long way, and
  • respect - by granting me a little more influence over the work I do and how I do it.

10. Right Feedback

To really grow individual capabilities and organizational strength, make time to help them reflect on their work. The most important feedback is that which they generate for themselves.

Help them to draw positive, constructive lessons from the experience. Not just what went wrong and how to fix it. But, crucially, what went right and how to institutionalize and enhance it.


Mike clayton

Blog Author

Mike is a UK-based Project Manager, who has built a second career training and coaching project managers, and speaking and writing about project management. He is the founder of Online PM, offering high-quality video training to new and experienced project managers