Delegation board: my favourite Agile Management 3.0 practice

If, like I did before (and for a long time), you think delegation is a binary thing, then it’s time you discover the model proposed by Management 3.0.

In this model, there are 7 levels of delegation:

On the left side (levels 1, 2, 3) the manager has the final say in the decision, on the right side (levels 5, 6, 7), it’s the team who has the final say. And in the middle (level 4), this is a real agreement : everybody’s opinions are at the same level of importance.

Once you’ve understood this model, and you’ve explained it to your team, you can build a “Delegation Board” with them. The purpose of a delegation board is to discuss the delegation level you and your team want for key decision areas: selection of tools or technology, communication, hiring people, etc. For each key decision, you discuss with the team about the current level of delegation and you agree about the level you’d like to have in the future (it can be the same as the current one).

And this clarification can help you to save a lot of time and energy! When I was a young manager, I once had a team that had become really too big. The team and I shared the statement that the team should be splitted in two teams. I asked the team to think about it and make a proposal. But, after a few days, no proposition came to me. And I started to feel a little discomfort in the team, the people were quite unusually grumpy. So I shared this feeling with them, and they finally told me they were comfortable to decide the scopes of the new teams, but not to decide which person should be in which team. That’s exactly when I realized my mistake! I delegated them a task, but I never discussed with them at which level they wanted the delegation. To be short, I assumed my team wanted a level 5 for this decision, while they wanted a level 5 for the scope decision, and a level 3 for the distribution of people.

Since then, I systematically build a delegation board with my teams. Here is how I proceeded the last time I did it :

  • First, I prepared some situations for which I wanted to clarify the delegation level, and I prepared delegation poker cards for each participant (including me).
  • Then, I scheduled a one hour and a half meeting for the whole team.
  • At the beginning of the meeting, I shared with my team the Management 3.0 delegation model, and I explained the delegation board. I used “Planning the vacations” as a situation example.
  • Then, for each situation I had prepared, we used the cards to vote and discuss the delegation level. We obtained a board like this, with arrows starting at the current level for the situation and pointing to the level we expected to have in the future :
  • I ended the meeting by asking if the team wanted to add situations to discuss.

After that, we updated it every quarter. And since my team is now familiar with the delegation model, we can sometimes just agree very quickly about the delegation level we want on some new temporary tasks.

What I learned the last time I used the practice

I realized the team had not enough time to think about situations to discuss. Next time I’ll use the delegation board, I will do it in three times, instead of doing all the preparation alone, and all the discussion at one time:

  • A first meeting to explain the delegation model and board to the teams (I’ll give an example of situation, but I will take time to try the delegation poker for this example instead of just explaining)
  • A few days for people to think about situations to put on the delegation board
  • A second meeting for the delegation poker on these identified situations.

To conclude, I’m really fond of Agile Management 3.0 tools, but if you’d ask me to choose one and only one, I would definitely choose the Delegation Board. I did not have the chance to do it, but delegation can be discussed not only in hierarchical relations. For example, it can be discussed between a Product Owner and the development team. Just think of it 😉

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