After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Meaning of Delegation 2. Features of Delegation 3. What should be Delegated 4. Process 5. Forms 6. Elements 7. Importance 8. Principles.

Meaning of Delegation:

Delegation means to grant or confer. It helps to coordinate activities at various levels to increase efficiency of the organisation. It helps managers to concentrate on important organisational matters and pass the routine matters to subordinates.

If all organisational activities, strategic and routine, could be managed by one person, the need for formal organisation structure with different functional departments, staffed with people of different skills, carrying out different activities would not arise.

Since it is not possible for one person to perform all activities with respect to all functional areas because of physical and mental limitations, it becomes essential that he gives part of his work load to subordinates along with authority to carry out the assigned task.


Any type of task cannot be assigned to subordinates. Managers have to decide the tasks that can be performed by subordinates and those which have to be carried out by them only. Thus, the entire workload is divided into units, a part is assigned to subordinates along with authority to carry out the assigned task. This concept of division of work and assignment to people down the scalar chain is called delegation. “Delegation is a process the manager uses in distributing work to the subordinates.”

Management is the art of getting things done through others and managers can get others to do things if they delegate them the responsibility along with authority. Delegation is an important skill that helps manager to effectively manage his organisation. “How well a manager delegates determines how well he can manage.”

Delegation relieves the burden of managers and creates healthy atmosphere in the organisation. Companies identify the capabilities of managers by judging their skills in how effectively they engage in the process of delegation.

“An individual is only one manpower. Single-handed, he can accomplish only so much in a day. The only way he can achieve more is through delegation through dividing his load and sharing his responsibilities with others.”


Delegation is “the assignment of part of a manager’s work to others along with both the responsibility and the authority necessary to achieve expected results.”

“Delegation is the process by which a manager assigns tasks and authority to subordinates who accept responsibility for those jobs.”

Features of Delegation:

Delegation has the following features:

1. Delegation is a process:


Managers delegate tasks in a sequential order of steps.

2. On-going process:

Delegation is a continuous process. Managers continue to delegate tasks to subordinates and get them delegated by their superiors to achieve the organisational goals.

3. An art: not science:


Delegation does not necessarily mean that subordinates will perform those tasks well. There is no cause and effect relationship between the task assigned and their actual performance. Delegation is, thus, not a science. It is the art of how well and what the manager delegates to subordinates.

4. Delegation of authority and not accountability:

Managers can only delegate work and authority to perform that work. Delegation does not absolve managers of accountability to their superiors for the part of task assigned to subordinates. They remain accountable for the tasks assigned to subordinates and are answerable to their superiors for its performance. Thus, responsibility (tasks) and authority can be delegated but not accountability.

5. Necessary activity:


Managers cannot avoid delegation. They cannot perform all the tasks themselves. They have to learn the art of delegation, that is, how to delegate and what to delegate. Corporate performance is judged by how well managers get the work done by the process of delegation. Delegation is not an option. It is a necessity.

6. Different forms:

Delegation can take different forms. It can be downward, upward or lateral.

What should be Delegated:

Managers exercise great care during the process of delegation. If routine jobs are retained by them and important matters are delegated, the entire process of delegation becomes ineffective. Manager determines the authority and responsibility that should be retained by him and that which should be delegated.


The authority and responsibility which he retains for his own performance is called reserved responsibility. According to Louis A Allen “a manager cannot effectively delegate responsibility and authority for initiating and making final decisions for planning, organising, coordinating, motivating and controlling the activities and positions that report to him.”

Making plans; single use or multiple use, strategic plans, policies, procedures rules etc. cannot be delegated. These activities are of supreme importance for the organization and managers cannot delegate them to subordinates. These are the foundation which provide meaning and substance to the organisation. Though not delegated, managers can take help of other line and staff managers in framing the plans.

While organising determines the framework of the organisation structure with well defined authority-responsibility relationships amongst various individuals at various levels, the base for providing structure to organisation, whether functional or divisional or matrix, is the sole responsibility of managers and cannot be delegated to subordinates.

The kind of people to be recruited, selected, trained, placed on different jobs, the kind of leadership style to be adopted, the measures of reward or coercion used as motivational factors are the important business decisions that cannot be delegated. These are, thus, the important areas of management where delegation will not be effective. What then are the areas where delegation will be effective?


With reference to plans and objectives of the organisation, the important managerial functions of planning, organising, staffing, directing and controlling are managed by managers themselves and routine activities with respect to each functional area of production, finance, personnel and marketing are delegated to subordinates, i.e., responsibility entrusted to lower- level managers should be with respect to routine jobs in the specific functional area.

In the finance department, for example, the sources of raising funds, designing the capital structure, determining the optimum debt-equity ratio, apportioning funds between fixed and current assets are determined by the top managers.

Once decided, accepting applications, returning excess funds and issuing share certificates can be delegated to lower-level managers (if funds are raised through issue of shares). Launching a new product, planning a market survey, feasibility and project report are done by top managers but actually conducting the feasibility studies and market surveys is delegated to lower-level managers.

Once responsibilities to be delegated are determined, authority to carry out those responsibilities is also delegated. The authority must be commensurate with responsibilities so that subordinates can effectively discharge their obligations. The matters which are of routine nature for top managers are important for subordinates and they need authority to carry out those responsibilities.

Process of Delegation:

The process of delegation involves the following steps:

1. Determine the goals:


The manager establishes the goal or objective of the position so that the person at that position knows what is expected of him. If delegation is to be initiated in the sales department, the objective should be made clear, sales promotion or sales retention.

All organisational activities are goal oriented. If every position knows its responsibility regarding what and how work has to contribute to the goal, delegation will be effective. Unless the goals are clear, the units/individuals would not know in which direction the delegated authority is to be used.

2. Responsibility:

Once requirement of the job is defined, the responsibility of members is determined in terms of tasks assigned to them. Tasks should be assigned in terms of results expected so that employees work towards measurable standards. ‘Selling 10,000 units per month’ is better understood than saying ‘sell as much as you can’.

When employees know what goals to fulfill and the criterion against which their performance will be judged, they will perform their duties better. Responsibility also defines their relationship with the superiors to whom they are accountable and subordinates to whom they can give instructions.

3. Authority:


The job having been assigned, authority is given so that subordinates can efficiently discharge responsibilities related to that job. Authority defines the right of subordinates to further give instructions to carry out the assigned responsibilities.

It defines the boundaries within which subordinates shall work – the actions they can perform and those they cannot perform. Authority permits the subordinates to take action on tasks delegated by spending resources, making organisational commitments, issuing further order to members of their unit etc. Authority must be commensurate with responsibility. More the responsibility, more the authority and vice versa.

4. Motivation:

The duty of manager does not end by delegating authority and responsibilities. He makes sure that subordinates willingly contribute to the job assigned to optimally achieve the organisational goals. Managers motivate the subordinates to do their work with zeal and enthusiasm. They use financial and non-financial (participative decision-making, recognition etc.) incentives to motivate the subordinates.

The need for acceptance and recognition are important motivators that boost employees’ morale to perform the delegated tasks. “The desire for recognition or ego satisfaction is central to other incentives in motivating people.”

5. Training:


Despite giving authority commensurate with responsibility, subordinates may not be able to effectively carry out the delegated tasks. Managers, therefore, organise training programmes to enhance their knowledge on the tasks delegated.

6. Control:

Specific standards of performance are communicated to enable the subordinates assess their performance against standards, control and coordinate their activities with goals of the organisation.

7. Accountability:

Whatever the nature and extent of delegation, managers constantly observe the activities of subordinates, reviews their progress and provide guidance, whenever necessary. They hold them accountable for the work assigned but remain ultimately accountable to their superiors for completion of each task and its coordination with the overall organisational work.

Forms of Delegation:

Delegation can take three forms:


1. Top to bottom delegation:

The process of delegation described above where superiors delegate work to subordinates is top to bottom delegation.

2. Bottom to top delegation:

This form of delegation recognises the importance of informal groups. The force of attraction of group members is so strong that if it comes to obey the superior or group members, they choose the latter. In such cases, managers have to be careful in issuing orders to carry out the delegated tasks.

They motivate subordinates as members of the group and not as individual members. According to Allen, “to the extent that the manager convinces the members of the group that their needs, his own, and those of the company coincide, he can motivate them to produce according to the standards he sets.”

3. Lateral delegation:


When managers delegate duties to subordinates in the hierarchy, subordinates further delegate the tasks informally to people at the same level in other units. For example, if general manager of sales department asks sales manager to compile the figures of sales and sales personnel for the month of January, the sales manager will seek the assistance of finance manager and personnel manager.

Thus, responsibility delegated to the sales manager is shared by him with managers of other departments working at the same level. This is a form of lateral delegation. Peer groups come together and carry out the task as a team.

Elements of Delegation:

Delegation has three important elements:

1. Responsibility:

Responsibility is the activity or task entrusted by the manager to subordinates. Though delegated, the ultimate responsibility (accountability) for completion of the task rests with the manager.

2. Authority:

To carry out the responsibility assigned, there is need for authority to allocate resources, command people, issue directions and make decisions. The authority is therefore, delegated to subordinates to enable them to carry out the responsibility assigned.

3. Accountability:

When managers delegate part of their work-load to subordinates, they remain accountable for accomplishment of that task. The responsibility and authority, thus, can be delegated but accountability cannot.

Importance of Delegation:

Delegation is unavoidable. Managers have to be skilled in the art of delegation.

It has the following merits:

1. Relief to managers:

Delegation relieves managers of the burden to carry out every activity on their own. By delegating routine activities to lower levels, top managers concentrate on important policy matters. This increase efficiency of the organisation.

2. Develops managers:

By delegating authority and responsibility to subordinates, managers can accept more and responsibilities from their superiors. By delegating routine jobs down the hierarchy, they can take more challenging projects and enhance their skills as competent managers.

3. Develops subordinates:

When routine and innovative tasks are delegated to subordinates, their skill in performing the delegated tasks increases. Training programmes can be organised to develop them as potential managers.

4. Better decisions:

Through delegation, decisions related to routine matters are taken by those who are closest to the decision-making situation. This increases the quality of decisions.

5. Faster decisions:

Not only are the decisions effective, they are also fast as subordinates have the authority to do the jobs assigned without going to the superiors every time they face a problem. They have authority to solve the problems on their own.

6. Specialisation:

Division of work into sub-units and delegation of responsibilities according to skill, knowledge and competence of subordinates promotes specialisation on the job and results in greater output. “Delegation provides a way to break down the responsibilities of a manager and assign them across several subordinate managers based on their specialised capability.”

7. Job satisfaction:

When subordinates achieve the delegated standards of performance, its provides them job satisfaction and motivates them to perform better.

8. Promotes inter-personal relationships:

Delegation increases interaction of managers with the subordinates and promotes healthy relationships amongst them.

The advantages of delegation rightly enable a manager to multiply himself.

Principles of Delegation:

The following principles make the process of delegation effective:

1. Authority, responsibility and accountability:

These are the elements of delegation that make it an effective process.

2. Parity of authority and responsibility:

Subordinates need authority to carry out the responsibility. Authority enables delegates to give instructions to members of their unit. Authority without responsibility and responsibility without authority have no meaning. As authority and responsibility are not mathematically related to each other, authority cannot be exactly equal to responsibility. It must be commensurate with the responsibility; neither more nor less.

3. Scalar chain:

Every member should know his position in the scalar chain to know his superiors who have the power to delegate and his subordinates to whom he can delegate. The responsibility can be assigned if every person knows his position in the hierarchy. Scalar- chain determines direct authority relationship between the superior and subordinates. Clarity in scalar chain relationships promotes faster and effective decisions.

4. Completeness of delegation:

Every part of the total work (except the one which is reserved by managers) should be delegated down the scalar chain. If some part of the work is not delegated, gaps would arise in respect of the work not so assigned and the work will not be completed properly.

5. Unity of command:

Every individual should have one boss to whom he should report. If subordinates have more than one boss, they may not be able to carry out the assigned task. For example, if a person cannot accomplish the task assigned to him by boss A, he may say that he was busy carrying out instructions of boss B and vice versa while it may not actually be so.

He, thus, avoids responsibility of carrying out the assigned tasks. Unity of command creates personal responsibility for results and avoids conflicts in instructions in the organisations. There is complete clarity about who has to carry out whose orders and when.

6. Absoluteness of responsibility:

Though the task and authority to carry out the task is delegated, the delegator continues to remain accountable to his superiors for the acts assigned to his subordinates. If district manager cannot achieve the sales target, branch manager (delegator) remains responsible to the General Manager of sales department.

Delegation does not mean that superiors get free from the responsibility of tasks assigned to subordinates. If subordinates do not perform well, delegator has to ensure that they know the task and perform it will. Ultimate responsibility means accountability. While responsibility can be delegated, accountability cannot be delegated.

7. Delegation by results:

Managers should determine the objective of delegation, that is, what they want their subordinates to do and then delegate the tasks along with authority to them. If production manager wants to increase production of Northern Branch, he should delegate this task to his branch manager, Northern Region.

The branch manager will carry out the tasks when things are clear to him. Vague orders like, ‘increase the sales’ are not effective even if subordinates have authority to carry out such orders. What is expected out of delegation by whom, when etc. must be clearly planned and communicated to subordinates for effective delegation. Subordinates should know the outcomes expected from their actions.

8. Delegate within defined limits:

Managers cannot delegate what they are themselves not authorised to do. For example, if manager does not have authority to raise funds from financial market without sanction of top managers, he cannot delegate this task to subordinates. Only those tasks which manager is himself authorised to do can be further delegated.

Sometimes, decisions are made by two or more managers together. This is called splintered authority. It means authority to take decisions through inter-departmental interaction. A single manager is not authorised to make decisions.

Innovations in product designs is the joint decision of production department and R&D departments. Decisions within the authority competence of both the managers can be delegated to members of their units and those which they cannot take are reported up in the hierarchy.