Turning a restrictive Delegation of Authority into a successful transformation enabler

Building in just 2 things will convert a seemingly ‘red tape’ corporate document into a major ally in change management efforts

With September upon us, it is the time of the year when many companies whose financial year ended in August are beginning to cascade their Delegations of Authority. While presentation of these documents would vary, their content in most instances consists of fairly dry tables capturing mostly financial limits of executive authority on how much they can spend, invest or commit money-wise.

And this is where these delegations of authority are missing their golden opportunity to facilitate change in the organisation, or embed a transformational effort further. Even when there is no major company-wide change programme underway, a well thought through Delegation of Authority can support strategy dissemination, process reinforcement and organisational clarity from the very top to deep into the operational fabric of the organisation. And when there is a transformation process in progress, a good Delegation of Authority becomes a critical communication and alignment component of the change management master plan.

Consider this. Delegation of Authority is a document which everyone takes seriously as non compliance with it is a grievous and potentially dismissible offence. The document is regularly updated (at least annually) and a lot of top level attention and consideration is given to its contents. It is compulsorily cascaded across the organisation from the CEO down to mid-lower levels of management within a common format and structure. Depending on its form, a good delegation document will show exactly to what extent the authority is delegated all the way along the delegation line so it is clear who has what limit. Finally, it is one of the very few official corporate documents that will be read and studied very carefully by all recipients. In other words, this is a perfect change management vehicle that must be used accordingly.

Turning Delegation of Authority into a change enabler is not that hard. From experience of being on both the receiving/using and development/dissemination ends of the delegation implementation process, inclusion of the following 2 principles will go a long  way to ensure the document meets this vital purpose:

  1. Delegation of Authority needs to contain most, if not all, key decisions that are being made in the organisation on a daily basis, in addition to financial limits for these decisions. For example, areas such as PR procedures, HR processes, financial leases and contract commitments need to be included. It may sound as though the list of these key decisions will be long but experience shows that it is likely to run to well under a hundred items. Consensus on what they are is usually achieved by top leaders in a facilitated exercise. Importantly for the purposes of the Delegation of Authority, while there may be other documents dealing with these subjects (such as an accounting or HR manuals), access to these documents may be restricted or they may not be updated, or they can even be contradictory. In a Delegation of Authority detailed by top leaders there will be no place for confusion and everyone will get the same message.
  2. Delegation of Authority framework needs to include other executives whose collaboration may be required. For example,  they may ‘approve’, or be ‘consulted’, or simply  ‘informed’ of a decision. The idea here is not to make decision making process longer but to make it transparent to all concerned. This will help avoiding comments such as ‘I do not understand how decisions are made in this organisation’ and foster a greater sense of shared responsibility within individual teams.

Yet it must be remembered that the Delegation of Authority is not a stand-alone document separate from other corporate documentation. It must be derived from, and fed back to, individual processes and responsibilities that make up cross functional links of the corporate target operating model. This is why Strategic Business Architecture includes identification and pays particular attention to capture of key decisions for the Delegation of Authority purposes early on in the Target Operating Model design.

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Does this article resonate with you? I would like to hear what you think – you are welcome to leave a comment or send me a message from my Contact page.

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