The Art of Delegating – don’t take the monkey!

Comparative Values

Now we're going to decide who's going to make this decision, using a process called "comparative values." If I ask George to make that decision and he comes up with nothing in three weeks, what will we call that? Insubordination, obviously. And because George has a Kodachrome picture on his desk of his wife and kids and has a keenly developed sense of stewardship, what are the odds that he will be wantonly insubordinate? Zero! Therefore, we know for sure that in three weeks George will not come up with nothing. But the question, nevertheless, remains: what will he come up with in three weeks? Well, you couldn't know that; I know because he's worked for me for ten years. So let me put down in mathematical form precisely what George will come up with in three weeks: 0.0001 ! That's a perfectly good number for which mathematicians have a name. It's called next to nothing, and that is exactly what he will come up with in three weeks; but it won't be nothing, and will not, therefore, be insubordinate behaviour.  

On the other hand let me ask you: if I pick up this decision because I can make it in thirty minutes, then based on (1) your knowledge of my track record on this decision thus far and (2) your knowledge that my boss doesn't even know that I have it to make, what will I come up with for sure in the same period of time? No­thing!

  It's open and shut for me now. I turn the decision back to him and say, "You're going to make that decision, George." He says, "Yes, Sir." So then I leaf ahead in my appointment calendar three weeks and put a note there to myself: "Nine a.m. Be here. George will show up with his decision." He gets up to walk out, goes down the hallway, and as I hear his footsteps trail off, I get curious. Why would it take anybody, even George, three weeks to make a decision I could make in thirty minutes?  

A Career Risk of a Lifetime

So I ask Mabel, my secretary, to fetch George back. George sticks his head around the door, and I say to him, "George, I'm not going to change that date, but just as a matter of curiosity, why would it take anybody, even you, three weeks to make a decision that I could make in thirty minutes?" And George says, "Well, for one thing, Stancombe, fifty million dollars hangs on this decision." As he heads back down the hallway, I begin to perspire! I say to myself, "Stancombe, have you cast aside all sense of responsibility entrusting a fifty million dollar decision to a man who hasn't made a two-dollar decision in ten years?" So, I say to Mabel, "Mabel, fetch George back."
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