Building team consensus with Delegation Poker

Ilija Popjanev
5 min readNov 8, 2020

Business organizations and teams exist for one reason only: to do jobs that are too large, too complex or too fast changing for any one individual to do on his or her own.

So why do so many managers within these organizations still try to do everything themselves? Assigning work to others is an integral part of getting things done efficiently, however many people feel uncomfortable with delegating.

If you don’t delegate you risk ending up with too much work, not enough time, and lots of undue stress. The belief that you can do it better and faster with fewer mistakes leads to a vicious cycle of too little time and too much to do. But on the other hand, when you delegate, you risk not having the job done properly.

So where do we instinctively find the balance? To choose not to delegate and end up stressed out and exhausted, or do you delegate, and risk errors and some frustration as a way of getting out of the “not enough time to do anything properly” slump?

Just recently we sign big and complex 3 year client project, so we hired few people, IT and HR specialists as a part of this long lasting project and after successful onboarding of the new hires, we started coaching them, but on intermediate level, since they had previous experience, working as web developers and HR specialists in other companies for several years.

We started by introduce them the Ken Blanchard model “Situational leadership” and the 4 leadership styles: directing, coaching, supporting and delegating, a model we preach in our company. Then we shift to the most important part, delegating tasks and accountabilities, as important issue in our team.

We coach them that in our team, when we consider delegating, we start by deciding what to delegate and when. Once we know which tasks are appropriate to delegate, it’s much easier to decide to whom and how to delegate.

For better understanding how the delegation works in our company, we played the Delegation Poker game from Management 3.0, a very engaging game that visually explains the process. First we played the game as any card game, since we were 4 people in the room and then we write several typical work activities in our team and ask for their opinion about the level of delegation.

At start, we explain the basic rules of the game and the 7 levels of delegation:

1. Tell: The manager makes the decision

2. Sell: The manager is convincing the team on his decision

3. Consult: Manager makes decisions, but first gets input from the team before a decision

4. Agree: They all make a decision together, as a team — consensus

5. Advice: The manager only influence the decision, but the team will decide

6. Inquire: The manager will receive feedback from the team about what they decide

7. Delegate: The manager delegate everything to the team

There were various activities described as: goal setting, salaries and bonuses, learning and development, recommendations, design of the software, running the daily meetups, should we use Trello or something else, working from home or in the office, length of the sprint cycle, replacement of sick colleague, lunch breaks, who will find books and online courses …

After the game, we discussed about the importance of personal accountability from the side of the team and avoiding micromanaging from the side of the manager. The new colleagues like the game a lot and show fully understanding on our corporate principles and rituals. I’ll explain my findings from this coaching session with new hires in few sentences.

My finding after implementing this tool and the delegation in general are:

  1. It’s very important to be noted the principle: “Delegate the results, not the process.” Focus on the end outcome unless the person to whom you’re delegating is inexperienced, allow him or her to determine how best to achieve it. If you dictate exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it, you limit the learning potential, and you risk not taking proper advantage of the person’s experience.
  2. I also found out the importance of defining my role and explaining how much support I’ll provide them. You must let the colleague know whether to wait for your instructions or make independent recommendations and decisions. Often, the more authority you give, the better the end result will be and to use discretion, depending on the task and the individual. Make sure the person understands whether independent initiative is mandatory.
  3. If you try to delegate work that’s inappropriate or should be done by you, you’ll probably fail — despite your best planning and support.
  4. I found out that it’s best to ask your strongest team member to replace you, but if his style and thoughts aren’t yours, chances are the team won’t connect with him the same way as with you.
  5. I also find out it’s important to clarify your expectations and tell your colleague what to accomplish and why it’s important. When he or she knows the desired results, it’s much easier to see the “big picture” and work accordingly.
  6. Finally, with this exercise I learned that by delegating I can also learn something new from the team, so I will utilize in better way their potential, build shared responsibility between me and the team and make them fill appreciated with the bigger authority and autonomy I give them.

Next time when I’ll experiment with delegation poker, either in Miro version or classic, I’ll :

  1. Combine it with the tool Team Decision Matrix
  2. Change the activities and examples in the delegation poker,
  3. Will spend some more time on the team commitment and buy in process
  4. Experiment with delegation some other tasks that are time consuming for me, but can be delegated.

Delegation poker is game than explains this important team activity in only few minutes in very visual and simple way. Here is the link: https://management30.com/practice/delegation-poker/

I will finish this article with the quote:

“When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.” Craig Groeschel

Take care and stay safe,

U.F.O.

--

--

Ilija Popjanev
0 Followers

Enthusiastic thinker, agile practitioner who wants to leave some legacy in the ever changing world.