Potential through delegation

The classic understanding of delegation, which is closely linked to the Eisenhower principle, falls short today. At a time when digitalisation and increasing agility are playing an ever-greater role in projects, the delegation of responsibility is becoming increasingly important. It is an essential factor in exploiting the full potential of a team. Through a strategic and targeted distribution of tasks, project managers can effectively divide their workload and focus on the important tasks. At the same time, it has a positive effect on the motivation and development of employees, as new tasks are assigned to them.
A wooden doll. Painted arrows lead from it to a different number of stick figures.


The benefits of delegation

The positive effects on the team and the quality of work are undisputed. When employees take on tasks that match their skills and interests, they can realise their full potential. This leads to higher engagement and greater job satisfaction, which in turn increases productivity. It also offers the opportunity to develop new competencies by introducing employees to new areas of work and thus broadening their knowledge and skills. It also fosters trust between project management and employees, as the transfer of responsibility shows the project management's confidence in the employees' skills and competences. This in turn strengthens the employees' confidence in their own abilities. They feel valued and included, which leads to a positive dynamic in the team.

Methods of delegation

The Eisenhower principle describes that managers should only delegate urgent tasks to employees. Important tasks must be done by the managers themselves. This either / or problem is difficult for many managers, who have to decide whether to delegate a task completely or to do it completely themselves.
However, there are many other gradations between these two options, so that each employee can be given more or less self-determination. How much and to whom to delegate should be decided by the manager according to the situation.
There are two well-known methods that can be used for this.

Delegation Poker

Delegation Poker is a playful method for delegating tasks and responsibilities in a project team. In this game, the participants meet to decide whether and to what extent delegation makes sense. Each player receives seven cards with different degrees of delegation (e.g., from "I decide alone" to "I hand over full responsibility") and chooses the card that best expresses his opinion about responsibility for a particular task and places it face down on the table. The cards are then compared and discussed in the team. The aim of the method is to develop a common idea of who is responsible for which tasks and how much decision-making power is transferred to which people.

Personal Kanban

Personal Kanban is a method that optimises the Eisenhower Matrix. The four quadrants (high importance / urgency and not important / urgent) are retained. The difference between the two methods lies in the assignment of responsibilities to the individual quadrants.
While according to Eisenhower the managers are responsible for the important and urgent activities, according to Personal Kanban this quadrant should not be filled because it is an emergency. So, should an emergency occur, these tasks are delegated to reliable employees.
Important but non-urgent tasks should be done by the most capable employees, as they are usually quality-relevant tasks whose total quantity can be reduced by the employees' skills.
The managers themselves take care of the unimportant tasks - not to work them off, but to look for potentials and ideally increase productivity.

Trust instead of loss of control

Trust plays a crucial role in the successful delegation of tasks, as it is the only basis on which sharing can take place. This enables better cooperation between the project manager and his staff. When trust is present, the project manager can delegate more responsibility to his staff because he knows that they are capable of handling the tasks. But how can trust be built? One way is to build a positive relationship with them through clear and open communication. Project leaders should be transparent and involve them in decisions that affect them. Clear communication of expectations and goals, but also of criticism and feedback is also very important. If the project manager makes his staff feel that their opinions and work are valued, trust will be strengthened.
However, it is important to stress that delegation is not synonymous with loss of control. The project manager should have confidence in his staff, but also ensure that he keeps track of tasks and can intervene if something goes wrong. This can be done through regular updates, feedback sessions and listening to staff questions and concerns. It is important to ensure that they have no inhibitions about approaching the project manager with problems and asking for support if needed.
However, supervision is not necessary. If the project manager has carefully selected his staff and communicated clear expectations and goals to them, they will be able to carry out their tasks independently and only inform the project manager when necessary. Overly strict control can undermine staff confidence and motivation.


Delegation plays a vital role in project management. It is not always necessary for the project manager to complete every single task that comes across his desk. By classifying tasks using various methods, it is possible to determine which tasks can be delegated to other people. In this way, the project manager can be freed up to focus on the tasks where he is really needed. At the same time, employees can take on tasks that match their skills and even develop them further, as they are also given challenging and supportive tasks. Both sides benefit from delegation in project management.

Delegation - The IAPM logo
Author: IAPM internal
Keywords: Project management, Delegation, Leadership, Tips

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