Over the years, managers have implemented the famous saying, “if you want something to be done right, do it yourself.” However, the many demands that managers face every day are complex and diverse, especially in regard to projects. This has made the role of doing things through others become essential in the current world. Managers have become more and more responsible for examining and analyzing the potential of their subordinates, motivating them in their participation in projects, and ensuring that they have the necessary training in projects and that they develop skills that can help them achieve their set goals. All these issues have raised the importance of delegation of accountability for managers in projects.
As Matta and Ashkenas (2003) state, “In most complex projects, the executives shaping and assigning major work streams assume the vast majority of the responsibility for the project’s success” (Matta & Ashkenas 2003, p. 112). The project manager or executive are responsible for the success or failure of a project; it is believed that a project executive or manager has the power to influence the responsibilities of the participants in a project, the strategies used to implement the project and the resources and the manner in which they are utilized for the project’s success. This means that project managers can influence the implementation of a project and determine whether it becomes a success or failure. Delegation is part of the project manager’s roles that highly determines the success of a project.
Delegation of accountability is a skill that goes beyond making statements or orders for employees or subordinates to carry out certain roles. Delegation of accountability involves the close analysis of the skills of the subordinates including their ability to perform certain responsibilities. It also involves the ability of project managers to assign accountability to subordinates based on their trust and decision making skills so that the project implantation can be timely. In delegating accountability, project managers must show determination to work against issues such as corruption, favoritism and emotions in order to allocate the responsibility to deserving subordinates. These issues show that delegating is an important skill that project managers must poses; indeed, it is important in ensuring that project failure is prevented.
Delegation of Accountability and Project Success
Delegation of accountability has become so important in project success that the effectiveness of a manager lies in the ability to ensure that responsibilities are effectively adhered to and followed through other people. Delegation specifically refers to a process where authority and responsibility are transferred from superior organs to subordinate organs. In project management, delegation defines the transfer of roles and responsibilities from the project managers to junior personnel working in a certain project (Hellriegel & Slocum 1989, p.367).
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Assigning duties alone does not mean that delegating accountability will yield positive results in a project. In the description of the process of delegation as granting authority, assigning tasks and creation of obligations, both authority and responsibility are transferred. However, accountability in form of obligation to report to a superior (project manager) cannot be delegated. This means that a project manager cannot delegate the whole accountability to the subordinates. This fact means that the risk of failure can only be reduced if the project manager and subordinates occupy their positions and undertake their responsibilities even after delegation (Williams, Du Brin & Sisk 1985, p. 254).
One way that proves delegation of accountability lessens risk of failure is that managers who do delegate accountability in terms of tasks never complete their work in good time. In fact, such managers blame their employees for their low results, find them less enthusiastic, and lack initiative to complete tasks. With delegation, all these issues never bother managers because most tasks are completed in time and employees are motivated to work more.
Delegation of accountability lessens the risk of project failure in the sense that it allows managers to provide opportunities for their subordinates to develop and be convinced that they can improve their competence in performance of project practices when given chances to participate in project decision making. Delegation provides subordinates with additional challenges that help them in terms of broadening their experiences in handling projects. Delegating accountability acts as a stimulus to employees by making them develop an attitude of a willingness to try and a caring attitude. These attitudes are significant for the success of a project and help to complete a project in time (Lisoski 1998, p. 4).
Delegation allows project managers to achieve more projects than they would handle single-mindedly. Handling projects in single-minded way hampers productivity, increases frustration and excessive personal effort and limit the potential of others contributing to project success (McConkey 1986, p. 30). Managers are seen to be effective depending on the manner in which they run business. Delegating accountability to subordinates helps increase productivity in projects and makes work easier. For example, using the time provided by subordinates is less expensive as compared to that of executives. Thus, delegating accountability helps organizations utilize subordinates in a cost effective way and allow project managers handle other problems that may have cost more money and time.
Satisfaction alone serves a great deal in reducing risks involved in projects. Delegating accountability allows subordinates to add value to the work environment and, in turn, the success of projects. Increasing the involvement of subordinates in projects ensures that they contribute to the activities that are of special interest to them. This helps them to develop an initiative for their work because they feel they own the work and invest something valuable in it. This enables them to develop self-esteem that is rewarding and contributory to the overall performance of subordinates (Axley 1992, p. 17).
Mutual confidence and trust are other essential aspects of project success. These are gained from successful experiences that originate from delegated tasks and responsibilities. Demonstrating trust in subordinates makes them reciprocate through actions that justify the trust. Thus, trust and confidence in subordinates makes them work harder and create an environment where delegation of responsibilities and accountability is nurtured and promoted for the success of projects (Axley 1992, p. 17).
Delegation of accountability helps in ensuring that employees make effective decisions fast. Losses that arise in project failure are mostly tied to situations where a project manager is not empowered to make effective decisions and act fast. Effective delegation of accountability ensures that subordinates create a network where information reaches the project manager quickly and enables him or her to make quick decisions based on reliable information. Subordinates closest to the problem have relevant information, which is the basis of effective decisions showing that delegation is essential in minimizing risk of failure (Nelson 1988, p. 17).
In addition, delegation of accountability maximizes output. Effective delegation is that which is performed according to the skill-set and the abilities that subordinates have for the project. This means that delegation creates a scenario where every skill-set present for the project is utilized effectively so that no skills are wasted. This assures an organization of high level of productivity because it allows subordinates to offer new ideas, suggestions and critiques that can improve the project. Delegation is essential for productivity because without it, “Without delegation, the sad and inevitable truth is that the total resources that can be marshaled for any task, be it physical, intellectual, creative, problem-solving, time, etc. are limited to those of the manager. Most of us are neither superhuman nor geniuses, and failing to delegate or delegate effectively, exposes and even magnifies these unfortunate limitations. Delegation effectively helps to nullify them” (Axley 1992, p. 16).
Barriers to Delegating Accountability
The effective practice of delegation should not be taken lightly. Delegation alone does not mean success in a project. Proper and effective delegation is the most significant aspect of the success that can be achieved in projects. Due to psychological barriers’ influences managers fail to delegate effectively. The greatest barrier to effective delegation is fear. Managers often fear that, if subordinates fail to deliver the tasks delegated to them, the managers’ performance will suffer a great deal. This fear makes managers think that it is better to achieve minimal but safe results rather than delegate and fail. As much as this might be true, such fear makes managers forget that they themselves make the project fail even without the help of subordinates. This fear makes it even harder for managers to identify subordinates with specific skills and abilities that could be beneficial for the project. With the above barriers and risks, delegation can completely fail. Such managers instill an attitude in subordinates that, without a manager or an executive, they can do nothing successfully. The development of this attitude is the fast step towards failure in projects. However, managers can apply certain measures such as finding the right skill-sets and abilities in subordinates and explaining to them clearly their roles to make delegation a success. Fear should not be left to control the delegation initiative.
McGregor’s X and Y Theories define human behavior at work. McGregor claims that people are different and the same behavioral theory will not work for all the employees in a certain company (Sahin 2012, p. 3).
Theory X posits that employees lose interest in their jobs because of a threatening work environment and lack of motivation. These employees neglect their working responsibilities and prefer executing different tasks but not managing other people. To develop enthusiasm in their work and be productive, they need to be safe at work; otherwise, this job will not fit their requirements, as there is no pleasure but disappointment.
Theory Y posits that employees who are passionate about their jobs find it challenging and entertaining. They also feel joy while working on different tasks and managing daily responsibilities. Such employees treat their jobs as if they have a rest in the workplace.
The employees that belong to Theory X know that if they fail to meet the objectives in a project, they will be penalized or fired. The employees that belong to Theory Y are highly motivated to produce extraordinary results. These workers are responsible and crave working on a project in the most challenging ways (Sahin 2012, p. 4).
According to the above explanation, Theory X depicts a scenario where delegation is not present and employees are de-motivated and lack the appropriate attitude for work. On the other hand, Theory Y explains a scenario where delegation of accountability is at play and employees feel highly motivated to participate and contribute to essential tasks that make projects successful. They also possess the right attitude for work.
The Apple Inc. case study below shows that effective delegation of accountability can assuage project failure.
Delegation of Accountability at Apple Corporation
Apple Inc. is an excellent example where executives shaping and delegating major work streams assume the vast majority of the responsibility for the success of specific projects. Steve Jobs, a founder of the company, initiated a culture that has created a company known worldwide for success in various projects. Through shaping and delegation of work, motivating employees and providing a strategic leadership, Steve Jobs proved that executives in a project occupy the major part of the responsibilities that bring about project success. As a result, Apple Corporation has gained global respect and awareness of its projects on attractive personal computers, software and hardware producing well-known product lines such as Mac.
The executives in the various projects at Apple have rallied employees to produce some of the best products in the world, such as Macintosh computers, Mac hardware, iPod, and iPad, iPhone and software solutions such as iOS, Safari, iTunes, iLife, and iWork. In other words, all these inventions of the Apple Corporation are the projects that were controlled by project managers with superior delegating skills (Apple Corporation 2013).
Such computer appliances were simple IT projects that offered great opportunities for their customers. Apple used a completely different approach to project management by mastering their delegation skills. Consequently, the Mac product lines, hardware and software solutions offer great advantages over Apple’s competitors on the market.
In addition, Apple used a completely different approach to managing the customer issues globally. The most challenging project solutions were the free music players, smart phones, tablet computers, OS X operating systems and appropriate software, media and web browsers, and other creative products for various customers worldwide. However, the company executives managed the projects appropriately applying the required strategies to ensure that they were completed successfully.
Therefore, due to superior application of strategies, motivation of personnel and delegation of work to employees by project managers, Apple Inc. has achieved success in various projects. It has already left many companies behind and went beyond its contemporary project management solutions. However, Apple Inc. struggles to improve its business strategy towards project management.
Therefore, in order to effectively use the project management solutions for information technologies, Apple Inc. is planning to utilize effective executive management skills. In addition, the corporation focuses on the marketing of its IT projects towards global improvements for the business.
There are many success stories in the world of IT project management. Most of them are the companies that had more failures than success in business. Therefore, many different objectives can be achieved in project management. One of the most important ones for Apple Inc. is the responsibilities that project executives have in delegating roles and coordinating other personnel and resources to achieve success.
It is important to empower project managers with a new strategy that will predict project failures and improve the chances for project success. The best solution for IT project management is empowering project managers or executives with effective management strategies. With this, Apple Inc. will produce respectable goods and offer services that will generate more profit.
Different project management approaches could be used in complex IT projects of Apple Inc. However, project managers should learn to deliver the projects on time and under budget. The project outline can look simple on paper but it is difficult to manage employees and delegate work to the right people (Khang & Yin 1999).
Fortunately, many project management techniques, tools, and procedures help Apple Inc. to direct IT projects successfully. However, project managers should learn to overcome issues with small projects first. Such project management strategy can improve the work of both project managers and employees.
Apple Inc. uses different approaches that guarantee success and predict failure of IT projects. The company pays special attention to the ability of project managers to overcome issues that lead to project failure. Such project management techniques offer different ways of communicating information effectively between project managers and employees.
Every project manager can choose a technique that works best for any particular project. These project management techniques are applied selectively to specific tasks. The aforementioned approach helps in delegating work to employees and makes project management simple and easy to meet the objectives of Apple Inc.
Managers should use special techniques to delegate work to the right people in both big and small projects. It is important that project managers devise a project plan and follow its phases accurately. Therefore, all the tasks of Apple Inc. are planned with appropriate project management tools. For example, time, teamwork, control and accountability could be used to utilize project resources and meet financial expenditures. Effective communication is also important for the successful completion of any project plan.
It is important to manage a set of project activities such as time, scale and different parameters of work. Hence, delegating ability of project managers at Apple Inc. is significant to address priorities of IT projects. Project managers become successful after they learn how to estimate the likelihood of failure and manage projects to avoid negative results.
The most valuable task of project managers at Apple Corporation is to organize people by delegating work and motivating employees for greater achievements. In other words, delegating abilities of project managers are to inform, encourage, and empower project teams for success.
A successful project manager at Apple Inc. needs to measure the working process and regularly review the employees’ performance. It is important to check assignments, measure daily project activities, monitor the correctness of finished tasks, adjust project plans, and inform the team members about any changes or updates within a project plan.
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Every project manager at Apple Inc. has a specific way of communication with employees. The most import ability of any project manager is to delegate the work of people and manage their performance. This is the best strategy to predict any kind of failure and guarantee a successful completion of all IT projects.
It is important to complete the project plan by reviewing intermediate processes and reporting project performance. Project managers at Apple Corporation have strong skills of delegating work, motivating and leading employees. In return, Apple Inc. shows its gratitude and appreciation through the system of bonuses (Apple Corporation 2013).
The follow-up process is the most important step; it allows for training employees, supporting them with required information and data, measuring project performance, reporting results, and taking advantage of delegating work to the right people. The purpose is to deliver the benefits for all the IT projects at Apple Corporation.
It is imperative to understand that delegation of accountability cannot always assuage project failure, but effective delegation can do that. According to the Apple Inc. case study, delegation of accountability on subordinates can create valuable achievements for an organization. Most IT projects’ successes are based on the ability of project managers to effectively delegate accountability to employees. The Apple Inc. case project managers can help organizations improve on project performance by applying effective delegation skills. Their responsibilities have helped the company achieve success in different projects and become one of the best companies worldwide.
Delegation of accountability is only significant when it is not just about ordering other people to perform duties that they desire; they have to contribute in terms of making employees feel an essential part of the project success by enabling and motivating them to carry out their responsibilities. Executives can do this by ensuring that resources are used carefully and that employees are consistent in the roles that are delegated to them. However, IT companies should constantly examine their working capacity to produce high-quality information technology projects because delegation of accountability cannot assure organization’s success when the project itself is of low quality. A special focus should be made on the ability of project managers to demonstrate both professional skills and personal qualities essential for the work environment.
For delegation to offer a positive contribution to a project success, those responsible for it should conduct it effectively. Managers must delegate accountability based on the skill-set and the qualities of subordinates that are fit for the responsibilities the project requires.
Second, managers should avoid fear when considering delegation of accountability because either fear will prevent them from delegating accountability or it will make them delegate accountability in-effectively because of the failure to identify the right skill-set and quality for the required job.
Third, managers should not assume that delegating accountability means that they should leave subordinates to work alone after they had delegated responsibilities. Managers should follow up because the subordinates report to managers. Thus, a feedback system must be present to ensure that employees perform their duties smoothly and that there is continuous assessment to ensure all processes are up to the required standard.
Limitations and Critique
Delegation may fail to assuage project failure when managers ineffectively delegate accountability, for instance to the wrong personnel by virtue of assigning responsibilities to personnel who do not have the right skill-sets for the job.
Delegating accountability could also be counter-productive when the quality of the project is low in-terms of inadequate resources, unqualified personnel and ill-planned projects. Here, they may even delegate accountability effectively but their efforts still may yield poor results. Thus, the quality of the project must first be ascertained before delegation can be done.
The success of delegation of accountability in projects depends on individual managers and the ability to analyze required skills and qualities in subordinates. Some employees prefer working by themselves so that delegation to them cannot be helpful even if it is done effectively. Similarly, there are managers who do not have the right analysis skills; thus, they delegate accountability to underserved personnel making delegation fail. In addition, inability to properly conduct regular checks and assessments and to use proper feedback systems makes delegation fail. This is because delegation of accountability requires proper follow up mechanisms so that minor problems are corrected before they cause major problems. The failure of managers to use these systems in the process of delegation provides loopholes that weaken the delegation framework. Thus, delegation requires managers who are swift, flexible and can make quick decisions and act promptly to close any loophole that may create major problems in a project.