How Authority is Delegated within the Organizational Hierechy

Simple as delegation of authority might appear to be, studies show that managers fail more often because of poor delegation than of any other cause. For anyone going into any kind of organization, it is worthwhile to study the science and art of delegation.

The primary purpose of delegation is to make organization possible. Just as no one person in an enterprise can do all the tasks necessary for accomplishing group purpose, it is impossible, as an enterprise grows, for one person to exercise all the authority for making decisions.

As was discussed under the subject of span of supervision, there is a limit to the number of persons managers can effectively supervise and for whom they can make decisions.

Once this limit is crossed, authority must be delegated to subordinates, who will make decisions within the area of their assigned duties.

Authority is delegated when discretion is vested in a subordinate by a superior.

Clearly,

Superiors cannot delegate authority that they do not have, whether they are board members, presidents, vice-presidents, or supervisors. Equally clear, superiors cannot delegate all their authority without, in effect, passing on their position to their subordinates.

The delegation process involves three steps:

  1. The Superior assigns responsibility, or gives the subordinate a job to do;
  2. Along with the job” assignment, the subordinate is also given the authority to do the job;
  3. Finally the superior establishes the subordinate’s accountability— that is the subordinate attempts an obligation to carry out the task assigned by the superior.

These three steps do not occur mechanically, however indeed, when a manager and a subordinate have developed a good working relationship, the major parts of the process may be implied rather than stated.

The manager may simply mention that a particular job must be done.

A perceptive subordinate may realize that the manager is actually assigning the job to him.

From vast experience with the boss, he may also understand, without being told, that he has the necessary authority to do the job and that he is accountable to the boss for finishing the job as “agreed”.