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Principles of Delegation

Delegation can be effective only if it conforms to certain well-established principles, which are as follows:

1.      Delegation to conform to desired objectives 

The nature and extent of duties and authority to be delegated should be in tune with the objectives to be accomplished. Before assigning duties and delegating authority to his subordinate, the manager should be clear in his mind as to what he expects from them. This means that delegation should be only after he has determined his objectives, policies, plans, and also the specific jobs to be performed for the accomplishment of the objectives.

2.      Responsibility not delegatable 

A manager can delegate only authority, not responsibility. Responsibility is never delegated. By assigning duties and delegating authority to his subordinates, a manager cannot tum a blind eye to how the assigned duties are performed, and how the delegated authority is exercised. The ultimate responsibility for the performance of duties and exercise of delegated authority remains with him.

3.      Authority to match duties 

Delegation of authority can be meaningful only when it enables the subordinate to discharge his duties effectively. Just as an ill-equipped soldier cannot fight a battle successfully, similarly an inadequately – authorized subordinate cannot succeed in accomplishing the assigned task.

Assignment of a task without adequate authority will render a subordinate ineffective. Authority without matching responsibility will make him dictatorial. An ideal delegation is that where there is a proper balance between delegated authority and assigned duties.

4.      Unity of command 

The principle of unity of command states that a subordinate should be commanded by one superior only. This means that a subordinate should be assigned duties and delegated authority by one superior only and he should be accountable for the performance of the assigned duties and exercise of the delegated authority to that same superior.

If there are many superiors to command a subordinate, it will create uncertainty and confusion, as the subordinate will find it difficult to determine which superior’s order should be carried out first, and to whom he should approach for solution of his problems.

5.      Limits to authority to be well-defined 

A manager cannot properly delegate authority unless he fully knows what his own authority is. To avoid confusion in this respect, there should be written manuals and orders to indicate the limits of authority and area of operations of each manager.