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Delegation and SMART, or SMARTER
by Alan Chapman
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A simple delegation rule is the acronym SMART, or better still, SMARTER. It's a quick checklist for proper delegation. Delegated tasks must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed
  • Realistic
  • Timebound
  • Ethical
  • Recorded

Traditional interpretations of the SMARTER acronym use 'Exciting' or 'Enjoyable', however, although a high level of motivation often results when a person achieves and is given recognition for a particular delegated task which in itself can be exciting and enjoyable, in truth, let's be honest, it is not always possible to ensure that all delegated work is truly 'exciting' or 'enjoyable' for the recipient. More importantly however, the 'Ethical' aspect is fundamental to everything that we do, assuming you subscribe to such philosophy.

The Steps of Successful Delegation

  1. Define the task Confirm in your own mind that the task is suitable to be delegated. Does it meet the criteria for delegating?
  2. Select the individual What are your reasons for delegating to this person? What are they going to get out of it? What are you going to get out of it?
  3. Assess ability and training needs Is the other person capable of doing the task? Do they understand what needs to be done. If not, you can't delegate.
  4. Explain the reasons You must explain why the job or responsibility is being delegated. And why to that person? What is its importance and relevance? Where does it fit in the overall scheme of things?
  5. State required results What must be achieved? Clarify understanding by getting feedback from the other person. How will the task be measured? Make sure they know how you intend to decide that the job is being successfully done.
  6. Consider resources required Discuss and agree what is required to get the job done. Consider people, location, premises, equipment, money, materials, other related activities and services.
  7. Agree on deadlines When must the job be finished? Or if an ongoing duty, when are the review dates? When are the reports due? And if the task is complex and has parts or stages, what are the priorities? At this point you may need to confirm understanding with the other person of the previous points, getting ideas and interpretation. As well as showing you that the job can be done, this helps to reinforce commitment. Methods of checking and controlling must be agreed with the other person. Failing to agree this in advance will cause this monitoring to seem like interference or lack of trust.
  8. Support and communicate Think about who else needs to know what's going on, and inform them. Involve the other person in considering this so they can see beyond the issue at hand. Do not leave the person to inform your own peers of their new responsibility. Warn the person about any awkward matters of politics or protocol. Inform your own boss if the task is important, and of sufficient profile.
  9. Feedback on results It is essential to let the person know how they are doing, and whether they have achieved their aims. If not, you must review with them why things did not go to plan, and deal with the problems. You must absorb the consequences of failure, and pass on the credit for success.

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© Alan Chapman 2005
Alan Chapman is a speaker, coach and advisor, specializing in the ethical and innovative development of people and organizations. He runs the Businessballs Web site (, a training and development resource for people and organizations, and he can be reached via e-mail at The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered. This is an extract and can be read in its entirety at

Disclaimer: Reliance on information, material, advice, or other linked or recommended resources, received from Alan Chapman, shall be at your sole risk, and Alan Chapman assumes no responsibility for any errors, omissions, or damages arising. Users of this Web site are encouraged to confirm information received with other sources, and to seek local qualified advice if embarking on any actions that could carry personal or organizational liabilities. Managing people and relationships are sensitive activities; the free material and advice available via this Web site do not provide all necessary safeguards and checks. Please retain this notice on all copies.
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