Skip to main content

Process Improvement: Delegation v Abdication

Delegation and abdication are two words that often get confused when it comes to effective management. 

When a process has been improved, there is always an ongoing need to manage the process (delegation). Just walking away and hoping everything is fine is fatal (abdication!)

Why is this distinction so important?

One of my clients certainly fell into the abdication category. Once their new computer system was in place, the management team considered the job done. They turned their attention to new, more pressing issues. They effectively washed their hands of the project. 
I was called in to help when the company found itself struggling with delivery performance. It was clear that the people running the system were experiencing problems but the management team had no way to measure this. I implemented Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and instigated Sunrise meetings. These daily gatherings helped the management team to get on top of their issues.

Another client, however, did the corrective work up front.  The management team realised that, once I’d finished the initial change project, they couldn't just walk away. Attention was paid, performance measured. As a result, the system didn't fall over or people get de-motivated. Performance improved, right from day one.  

With both clients featured in this blog post, there were the same basic ingredients: Medium sized manufacturing businesses, in similar markets, undertaking similar projects (both were implementing ERP systems.) Their staff too, were similar in many respects. 

The difference was in the approach to managing change, once the initial project had been completed.
The contrast between ‘abdication’ and ‘delegation’ is not too dissimilar to cruise control on a car. You’ve probably heard stories of people who switch on cruise control and then expect the car to drive itself. It doesn’t, it crashes! 
When you operate cruise control, you still need to watch the roads, steer the car and brake. Similarly, having implemented a new business process, it is important to ensure that you are delegating and not abdicating responsibility. 

Done correctly, delegated processes can be measured and managed in a short period of time, still allowing you to focus on your other management priorities.

Delegation or Abdication - choose wisely!


Giles Johnston
...optimising MRP systems and re-engineering business processes

Popular posts from this blog

Where there is a (performance) gap there is a concern

I had a really good day yesterday working with a client's team.

The team has issues. Plenty of issues. Some are managerial issues, some are people issues and some are production issues.

When I first met the team they didn't know what to do with their issues, so I started by helping them to see more issues.

Issues everywhere, they didn't seem very impressed.

And then we captured the issues as 'concerns' into the tried and tested 'concern cause countermeasure' format and followed the process:

Concerns probed for root causes and root causes converted into countermeasures.
Soon they realised that some of their root causes dealt with numerous concerns and they gained momentum.

Yesterday we pulled another one of their processes apart and identified all of the gaps. The gaps became concerns and we fed them back into the process. Now they have a practical action plan (of countermeasures) to upgrade the process in question.

What do you do with your performance gaps? …

Continuous Improvement and the Five Legged Race

Many improvement projects need the buy in of several people before they can progress. Amongst these people there will be some that have a firm view of what needs to happen and are keen to make progress. Some of the people won't be sure and they will need more time. Other people might not be that interested and have other priorities they want to focus on.

None of this is wrong.

It is an observation of mine and one that I see repeat on a regular basis with the businesses that I come into contact with.

But, if we take the principle from the observation we have an interesting improvement strategy (one that I personally use when I get stuck with my client's improvement projects).

You might have worked out the approach from the title of this blog post, but it is analogous to a three-legged race (or four, five, nine...). If someone in the group moves in the wrong direction and / or at the wrong speed then the whole group falls over.


In the example I gave at the start it is no differe…

Do you have time to prepare (in order to become super productive)?

I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a team that was complaining about one of their colleagues spending 'ages' preparing their workstation within their factory. I meet a lot of people that spend too long preparing (and effectively procrastinating) so I was intrigued by their comment. It turns out that this individual didn't spend too long but rather his colleagues dived into their work without thinking through what the best way to work was...

The slower to start gentleman did in fact prepare his work area. He was also able to produce a far greater amount of work in the same time period because he had invested in a smarter way of working than his counterparts. The time spent preparing his working area was valuable and not overdone.

This example reminds us of the importance of the second S in 5S (set in order) and how workstation design is critical if we want to maximise the productivity of our teams. Whether this is a physical work area in a factory, the filing s…