5 Steps for Effective Delegation

If you have ever had the pleasure of training a new staff member or co-worker, you know that the process can be tedious, time consuming, costly and a source of frustration for both the trainer and the trainee. So frustrating, in fact, that it actually caused me to go through a vicious cycle in my business of hiring staff, training them, getting frustrated at the increase in customer complaints, letting staff go and going back to doing it all myself – not once, but several times. The hardest part to admit was that the frustration and increase in complaints was that my staff was not to blame. It was my lack of well documented processes that was to blame.

I was desperate to find a solution because every time I took everything back, I was stunting my growth potential and finding imbalance in my organization. You see, when it is just one person doing everything, it is impossible to balance production and the sales funnel. One season you find yourself toiling away everyday trying to complete all the work you sold while ignoring your duty to generate new leads. Eventually the work is completed and you find yourself with nothing to do but hit the pavement and start building up a pile of work that will set you back to toiling away everyday trying to complete all the work. The result is a roller coaster in your finances and eventually complete and utter frustration with the lack of stability this process creates.

I set out to find the answer by reading several books about scaling a growing business. The one central theme to all of them was DOCUMENT EVERY PROCESS IN GREAT DETAIL. Seriously? I barely have time to accomplish what I need to accomplish everyday to keep the doors open. Now you expect me to spend hours upon hours writing down every step of everything I do in great detail? And by the time I finish writing all of this down, 75% of it will have changed and need to be updated.
I was devastated, believing that I would be a sole practitioner for the rest of my days in business and I would never see real growth in my business; until the day I attended a web conference and learned about the beauty of using video to document processes. From there, I developed the following five step process to streamline my training process, freeing me to delegate with confidence and sustainability with a goal of full delegation within 90 days of the creation of a new process.

Step 1
Determine how the task will be performed

Most likely, if you are already doing this task, you have already completed this step. However, if your business is like mine, every client is unique and has different requirements; so, often times we have to create new processes to accommodate the unique needs of our client. It is difficult to document the new process until it has been completed a few times to ensure that the process works. Once you have found a process you like, it is time to move to the next step.

Step 2
Create a video in real time as you are performing the process

This is the step that made process documentation a viable solution for me because it allowed me to document the process while I was actually completing the work. No additional time was needed to perform the process and document it because I was able to kill two birds with one stone.

Since everything we do is done on a computer, I used screen recording software like Snagit or Loom to record my screen and voice instruction as I performed the process. If you perform your work off screen, rally a friend or acquaintance to spend some time with you as you complete a process and record it using your phone or any other video recorder you may have. Who knows, they may become your next staff member and it may only cost you lunch!

Step 3
Put the process into a written checklist

You probably don’t want your staff spending several minutes a day watching and re-watching videos every time they need to complete a process. Therefore, you will want to put the steps of each process into an easy to follow checklist. Include at the top of the checklist the tools that will be needed to complete the task and where they can be found or acquired. It is also helpful if you can include the timing in the video for each step in case someone would want to go directly to that portion of the video for instructions on that specific step.

All checklists should be in a central location that is easily accessible by your staff. Avoid printing them off and distributing them to several employees on paper. This will make updating them more difficult and could result in inconsistencies because one staff member will be working off the updated list and another will inevitably lose the updated one and continue working off the old list. We keep ours in a cloud-based workflow management system. This system is how we assign work; so, when a task is assigned, the checklist is right there within the task with a link to the video should they need it. It also makes updating easy because when someone makes an update, it is reflected for all who access the list. There are many affordable workflow management systems out there like Redbooth or Asana to name a couple.

This serves two purposes. One is to make sure that no step gets missed. The other is to give your employees accountability. In our organization, when you check off a task you are stating that you have read the instructions in their entirety, understood them and performed the task as written. When there are performance issues, we can see where the breakdown was and determine whether it is something missing in our process or a performance issue that requires further action.

As I stated earlier, most business owners don’t have time to be documenting these steps, nor should they be because they are too close to the process. If you have an administrative assistant, put them to the task of creating these checklists from the video. If you don’t have an administrative assistant or their plate is already full, consider the services of a virtual assistant. Two of my favorites are Savvy CVA and Mari Nieves VA. The beauty is they don’t need (and it is probably better if they don’t have) experience in the subject matter to create a checklist from your video.

If there are parts of your business you don’t have a solid process for because you aren’t an expert in those areas, like marketing or bookkeeping, consider hiring a professional to come in and create those process for you to streamline them and make them delegatable for you when you are ready.

Step 4
Test and train

Once the checklist is complete, I like to take someone in my organization who has never performed the task before and have them perform the process without any training to see where there are gaps or exceptions that need to be included in the documentation. I recommend someone oversee this process; but, be careful of rescuing the tester. When you must interject, be sure to take good notes about how to get them through it without needing your oversight in the future. Add these sticking points to the checklist for next time.

The whole point of documenting these processes is so that a task can quickly and easily be delegated to someone who has never performed it before with little or no training. Think of a fast food restaurant. They have employees as young as 14 years old performing a repeatable process that allows you to have the same experience at any location with little or no experience or background in fast food service. You want this for your business if you want to minimize the pains of growing a business. Therefore, a process is not completely documented until the tester can get through it with no questions or sticking points.

I realize this can be a bit tricky in a small organization if you only have so many testers. After testing for the 2nd or 3rd time, they already have accumulated experience which will reduce the spots they may get stuck; but, do the best you can with what you have and keep improving along the way.
Step 5
Delegate permanently

As I mentioned earlier, it is my goal to get a new process through these five steps within 90 days. It is important to set a goal like this for yourself to avoid becoming lazy and just doing the work yourself because you don’t feel like documenting it. If I am to be completely transparent, there are a few of these tasks lingering on my plate because I have gotten a bit lazy and am committing myself, with you as my witnesses, to get these lingering bad boys off my plate within the next 90 days. Would someone who knows me please hold me accountable to that?

If you don’t currently have any employees or contractors to delegate to, you are not off the hook! Start early! Even if you are the only one in your organization, document EVERY, I repeat, EVERY process you perform and do it NOW. Don’t make the mistake I did and wait until you have 30 clients and a gazillion processes to document at one time. I am quite certain it was the push to get all of these documented that has caused my earlier confessed laziness. I am a bit exhausted from doing so many at once.

I’m sure there are multiple processes waiting to be documented in your organization so don’t delay. Put this process to work and it won’t be long before you can kick back and reap the benefits of sustainable delegation in your organization!