“Once momentum is lost, great power is needed to change that trend.”— Satoru Iwata

One of my clients was struggling with delegation to her team while another client was struggling with delegation to management above him.

Remember that delegation is the act of transferring the momentum of work you are trying to accomplish to someone else.

Thus, whatever direction you are delegating, it is important to consider Newton’s Laws of Motion. In this context, the laws have been translated into “Alan’s laws of delegation.”

  • 1st law: A body at rest stays at rest. And similarly, if it is already moving in a direction, there it goes.
  • 2nd law: Bigger objects are harder to move. Faster objects are harder to alter if they moving in a different direction than you want. Big and fast is harder yet.
  • 3rd law: When you apply force to something, it has to react. So there is hope to successful delegation!

Considering the three laws of delegation, here are three key steps to successful delegation.

  1. Define the direction.  Clearly define the goal and the directions towards that goal. Before doing delegation, you must be clear to yourself what you want to be delegated, why you want it delegated, and how important success is to you. When delegating, transfer that clarity and that importance to your delegate. 
  2. Provide the proper force. Understand the current state of the momentum of those to whom you wish to delegate. If they are already in motion towards your goal it is easier to successfully delegate.  If they are heading towards different goals, help change the forces acting upon them.  You may need to remove obstacles. You may need to change their priorities.
  3. Get Commitment.  Ask your delegates to be clear what they will accomplish by when. Ask them about how they will accomplish the mission. The answers to your questions are ensuring that the momentum of the action has been transferred from you to them.

One extra step – follow up.  We do not work in a frictionless vacuum. There will be gale-force winds that act upon those to whom we have delegated. There will be friction.  Get things moving with your powerful delegation, and ensure success by periodic monitoring of the speed and direction toward the goal.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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