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