Poor Delegation Skills = Poor Productivity

The productivity increases both needed and expected by today’s companies represent a real effort to achieve. These gains are essential to the growth, development and efficiency required for the company to remain competitive. They remain illusive. The results from failing to achieve needed productivity are many. Some of the painful issues that arise include lack of growth and profitability, lack of competitiveness, the turnover pattern of letting poor performers go and starting over with new employees with no change in how to obtain productivity, just to name a few.

In a recent article, in Time Magazine, futurist Ray Kurzweil answered a question that connected to productivity for me. Mr. Kurzweil was discussing how information technology was changing the pace of future change. He described the result of this method…”If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.” That gets your attention, but what does that have to do with actual delegation and significant gains in productivity? I think most management efforts at productivity are still “Linear”. That is to say, the approach to project planning, management, delegation, personal and team development is a short term focus. It uses the same approach to managing that are being applied all along. It is like the commonly used quote…”if you do the same things you have always done you will see the same results.” Let’s refer to this process as “linear productivity management.”

What are the changes in both management principles and project/assignment concepts that would move us from a “linear” approach to productivity to an “exponential” approach that could cause substantial gains in productivity?


Recognize Where You Are Now – The first is straightforward and obvious. Management must be willing to acknowledge the linear results from continuing down the same path. Letting the press of here & now projects and assignments keep us from adapting powerful new ways to manage. We continue to do things the same way because it is expedient. We recognize the need for new and different approaches but are not at all sure what to change, and therefor can not take the time now. This dilemma of being so inbred to the constraints of how things have always done it puts the breaks on productivity gains. You aspire to a dynamic productivity driven business unit, but you can’t get out of your own way.

Do We Know How to Change? – Overcome the assumption that our managers know how to Plan & Delegate effectively. Managers move up the organization for a variety of credible reasons. Often, people get “promoted” into management because they are a talented individual performer. The ability to plan and effectively manage a business unit is assumed or the skills are not fully developed. At the root, of most productivity issues is a dedicated, hardworking management team that are not experts at management by delegation. They fall into “linear” approaches to trying to increase productivity because that is what they know.

Velocity of Project Execution

Build the “Velocity of Execution” – Embrace the concept of what I call the “Velocity of Execution.” The key responsibility of managers of business units and teams is to approach the execution of assignments and projects with a “need for speed.” Typically, the project plan is laid out, activities begin and the focus is on the completion of tasks on the time line set out. Productivity equates to the speed of execution. Where projects move along at a faster pace, time is saved and these resources can be employed on new assignments. That equals productivity gains. It is like the hurry-up offense in football. You call the play for the next action step and get to the line of scrimmage quickly to start executing. You must create a sense of urgency. Your business unit has capacity for faster execution, but usually moves along at less than capacity because the manager moves at a “linear pace.”

Implement Real Performance Management

Performance Management – Totally build a “Performance Management” Approach to managing your People. The concept of “performance management” is much discussed in most businesses but seriously seldom implemented at anything resembling a consistently high level. The proof of this is represented by the countless times a manager tries to work with their HR department to deal with a troubling performance issue only to be stalled.  They find there is no documented history of unsatisfactory work in the personnel file. Time after time the manager has to start over and delay the elimination of someone not performing. Often I hear…”oh, we have a performance management system in place”…really? Let me see the files of every employee that is not carrying their load…that’s what I thought. In my experience, a Manager does not get what the want or even what they expect. They get what they allow. Do not allow mediocre people,or under-performers to remain on your team.

Train, Train, Train – To increase the capacity for “Productivity your people have to become more competent in every aspect of their jobs and responsibilities. To the extent the skills and abilities of individuals in the business unit improve, the unit’s ability to execute and perform go up. Train one person and you get some “linear performance” increases. Train 10 people in various aspects of key skills and you get “Exponential Gains” in productivity. It may be that in your business, training budgets and even the culture is under appreciated. Do not let that stop you. With just a little research, you can find almost limitless free or inexpensive training resources. Be a leader! Find a way. Make training the watchword for your business unit. Train everyday in every way possible. Create a culture where people are expected to get better. Don’t allow anyone to avoid growth or development.

Empower Your Team

Adopt the Skills and Techniques for Empowerment – Almost every management team talks about empowering their people but it is small talk. People want to do better. People want to prove themselves. People want to grow and take on more responsibility. The sad truth is most managers hold them back. In many cases it is due to a lack of skill, technique and knowledge with regard to how to delegate authority and empower people. There are specific skills and processes to empower people and still remain in control of the execution. Empowerment of your people is a hands on undertaking.Empowerment does not mean delegating and walking away from it. Empowerment is a much more engaging proposition and requires managers to stay involved.

You will not find these steps to be somehow earth shattering except for the results that are obtainable as a consequence of their implementation. The roadblock to increased productivity comes from the inertia and resistance to change. By making a strong and consistent commitment to change, by implementing these concepts, you can move your organization form linear productivity to exponential productivity. It is all right there in front of every management team. Change is hard. You may have some of the wrong people in your business unit or company. Making personnel changes is difficult. The processes are not in place. Budgets for development may not be available. All these are excuses in the sense that you can start with one or more of the 6 Exponential Productivity Strategies above. I believe the accurate view, the inability to attain consistent increases in productivity and results, is more costly than efforts to implement the six strategies..

A concerted plan to begin implementing the exponential productivity strategies will begin to remove impediments to productivity gains. Managers will begin to overcome the lack of productivity, increase profits and growth, avoid the vicious turn-over cycle and become more competitive. It starts with an honest assessment of where you are. In coaching managers and executives over time, I ask this elementary question…”Is your current business unit or management team the best in your company, your industry, among your competitors, recognized widely as the most competent and highly productive team of its kind? It can be. Move to an “exponential productivity” managed business.

Additional Delegation Skill Resources

More on Delegation

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Michael D. Moore is the publisher of Management By Delegation and is a veteran executive with 40+ years in the Banking and Insurance Industries. A devoted entrepreneur, using his business experience to provide resources for managers and leaders at all levels. For the last 5 years, he has built a growing web presence for helping people with personal and professional development. To learn more about these advanced concepts & join our group Click here 5 Must Have Management Skills

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