Delegation: The Key to Organizational Effectiveness

Delegation: The Key to Organizational Effectiveness
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Delegation Essentials

If your “to do” list stretches further than the eye can see and you never have enough time to get everything done, are you delegating properly? Consider this organizational effectiveness principle: All work should be done at the lowest cost consistent with the hospital’s standards of quality and timeliness.

Are you spending valuable time (your most scarce resource) performing tasks that could and should be done by someone else at a lower hourly rate?

Delegation is a technique that employs three concepts to multiply management effectiveness: authority, responsibility, and accountability.

  • Authority is the amount of control over human and other resources formally assigned to a manager by the organization.
  • Responsibility defines the organization’s expectation of performance from a manager. One is responsible for producing expected results.
  • Accountability defines to whom it is that a manager will answer for responsibility performance. One is accountable to an organizational entity for responsibility fulfillment.

Theoretically, the authority to perform all management functions can be delegated. Responsibility, on the other hand, can never be delegated. A hospital governing body delegates authority to its chief executive officer for day-to-day management but retains responsibility for results and remains legally accountable for the CEO’s performance. In turn the CEO delegates authority to the executive staff and, through them, to department managers. Just as the CEO remains accountable to the governing body, department managers retain accountability for performing their delegated responsibilities.

When authority is delegated, accountability requires that performance expectations be clearly articulated. It is not enough for the Vice President of Clinical Services to say, “I’m delegating management of the Laboratory to you.” The Vice President must also say, “This includes meeting all revenue and expense budget goals; satisfactorily resolving all physician complaints; meeting all CLIA requirements; maintaining JCAHO accreditation; and holding employee turnover to less than ten percent per year.”

Continuing our hypothetical example, the Laboratory manager will delegate the completion of certain tasks to department staff but retain responsibility for their performance. The Laboratory manager must clearly articulate performance expectations to the Laboratory staff just as the Vice President of Clinical Services did previously with the Laboratory manager.

Delegation and Control

Because the delegating manager retains ultimate responsibility for delegated functions, control mechanisms must be established to provide feedback on how well the delegated functions are being managed. The existence of these control mechanisms should not be a secret to anyone in the organization.

Controls are typically of two types

  1. Management by Exception Controls trigger reports to the delegating manager only when actual results differ materially from planned results. These are often automated. The intent is to avoid interference with day-to-day management of the delegated function while assuring action when untoward outcomes occur.
  2. Random Controls are unscheduled checks performed at unpredictable intervals. They can be as simple as an unannounced walk-through of a department during the night shift by the CEO and as complicated as systematic telephone surveys to identify concerns or measure satisfaction levels. The purpose is not to ambush subordinate managers and staff but to allow those who maintain ultimate responsibility to assure that their responsibilities are being fulfilled.

Delegating for Management Effectiveness

Proper delegation is key in optimizing managerial effectiveness. Managers must take care to delegate when possible incorporating the concepts of authority, responsibility, and accountability. Doing so will allow managers to maximize organizational effectiveness.

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