Leadership; Motivation

tHe deleGated diGGiNG

Primary Topic—Delegation

Additional Topics—Leadership; Motivation

John Kaye, director of biomedical engineering, was discussing an information need with his boss, Peter Gideon. Both agreed that their equipment maintenance and repair records were not providing them with the kind of information they needed—nature of breakdown and failures, maintenance problems, and unique situations encountered— to design an effective preventive maintenance program.

Asked Gideon, “Since we started your department 18 months ago, haven’t we kept records of all the work done by you and your technicians?”

“Sure we have,” answered Kaye, “but they won’t tell us anything useful without lots of digging. We have 18 months worth of completed work orders filed in chrono- logical order.”

“Could someone sort through all of the work orders and separate them by kinds of problems? Perhaps see if there are any patterns to the various kinds of work required?” asked Gideon.

“I suppose so,” Kaye said, “but I certainly don’t have the time to do it myself, and both of my techs are swamped with open work orders. I guess I could always delegate it to my secretary, Sharon—just tell her what I want and let her go about collecting it in her own way.”

Gideon asked, “Does Sharon know the language? Know all of the work order codes? Perhaps you might want to provide her with some detailed instructions and maybe even give her a deadline for completion or a schedule for finishing various steps of the project.”

“I don’t see much point in delegating the job if I’m going to have to do all that work just to get ready,” said Kaye. “It ought to be enough for me to give her my objectives, suggest an approach, let her add her own ideas to it, and turn her loose.”

Gideon asked, “Could this become a regular part of her job?” “It should. Hers or somebody’s. Then we could monitor the kinds of information

we need rather than having to dig for it like we are now,” Kaye answered.

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“Between us, we seem to have thrown out three ways of using Sharon on this project,” said Gideon. He outlined the three possibilities:

1. Tell her what is wanted and let her do it in her own way. 2. Provide her with expected results, a procedure or other instructions, and a

schedule or a deadline. 3. Tell her what is wanted, recommend an approach, and turn her loose.


• Assuming Sharon is qualified for the project, what should determine whether John Kaye does indeed assign the task to her (as opposed to doing it himself or looking for another way)?

• Identify the advantages and disadvantages of the three possibilities outlined by Peter Gideon.

• Which of the three approaches would you recommend in this instance? Why?

Case 23: The Delegated Digging 71

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