Use Strategic Delegation to Improve Productivity
Written by John W. Myrna
The more your company can optimize—not just maximize—staff members’ output, the more you can increase return on investment and grow your business without investing in more staff or other resources. This strategy works whether your company is running lean and mean or gearing up for new growth.
One of the fastest, most effective ways to optimize output without increasing costs is to institute strategic delegation practices. Strategic delegation is an often-overlooked management tool that has the potential to dramatically improve productivity and employee satisfaction.
To get started, every strategic player, from the CEO on down, must first assess his or her tasks and prioritize them based on their importance to the company’s success. Each player must eliminate the non-essential tasks and delegate to other parts of the essential tasks they are responsible for. This frees each leader to work on improving the business, not just completing tasks.
Be sure that your management team understands that delegating part of their highest-value tasks—the A and B tasks—creates the best return. Delegating only the C and D tasks is a waste of time. Finishing those tasks delivers very low ROI – which is what makes them C and D tasks to start with.
For example, a client company wanted to increase sales of its point-of-sale displays. Instead of recruiting new sales reps, who would take months to get up to speed on the complex product line, we suggested the company first improve the current staff’s output. That’s because we had discovered that the current sales reps spent only 10 hours a week actually selling. They spent the majority of their time following up on sales, completing paperwork, ensuring the plant did the job correctly, and generating reports.
Once the company implemented strategic delegation, the non-sales employees assumed responsibility for such tasks as streamlining order and reporting activities. This had the immediate effect of doubling the effectiveness of the company’s existing sales force, all without having to recruit and train new sales reps.
Strategic delegation works in all areas of a business. We’ve used this as a standard approach to resolve bottlenecks in sales, product development, and engineering – all functions requiring very specialized skills that are hard to recruit.
Another client, the president of a manufacturer of plastic liners and sealants, wanted his team to spend more time working on the business, rather than in it. To free up 20 hours per month for each executive, we first asked all team members to identify five tasks they believed could free up 20 hours for each other team member if delegated. Each executive then identified which of their own tasks they believed could truly be delegated, and how. Within six months, each executive was spending much more time working on the business.
To make strategic delegation work, continually remind your team that you expect them to manage their priorities and delegate effectively. Help team members recognize the value of delegation, and don’t let managers believe that they are the only individuals who can do a given job. Train your team members on how to delegate and how to mentor others. Develop a model for deciding which tasks to delegate and how to monitor them with a four-step cycle of agreement, accountability, action, and assessment.
With strategic delegation, your company can boost productivity and get the most growth from its current resources.
About the Author: John W. Myrna is a pragmatic management coach and co-founder of Myrna Associates, specializing in helping companies with $2 million to $100 million in revenue create targeted and actionable strategic plans. With extensive experience in C-level and senior management positions before starting his own firm in 1991, John is an expert on the development and application of strategic planning. John is a frequent speaker and an author. Reach him at [email protected] or www.myrna.com.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.