Jun 4, 2007

Delegating in a small medical device company

Creo Quality discusses delegating:

In my experience, engineers are typically poor at delegating tasks and activities. In fact, I often have heard engineers say they want something done a certain way and usually add “. . . if I want it done right, I’ll do it myself”.

This is largely how I feel (I'm an engineer), or perhaps it should be "if I want things done in a timely manner, I'll do it myself." Positions in small companies are not usually rigorously defined, people will have several roles. However, if you give out a task outside of their main one or two roles, it often gets put off while the person focuses on his or her primary roles. I do this too, at my company I'm in charge of the computer network, unless the P or VP of the company is asking, I'm not going to jump right on your computer problem until I feel I have nothing else important to do.

Creo then discusses another pitfall to watch out for:

Delegation is not always a good thing–especially with a small, growing company. I delegated some documentation tasks to a resource within the company. Perhaps this was my error. In hindsight, the resource probably does not have the skill set required to take on the type of task assigned.

This is true in my company too, I can generally recognize it when things are taking way too long to get done. If a task is dragging out weeks when it could have been finished in a day or something along those lines.

The difficult part is what to do about it. I or someone else could take the job over and do it, but you don't want to do that necessarily, everyone is already busy, so extra work isn't usually welcome, especially if it is something that does not require any special skills. How long do you let the person struggle at it? The best way is to find some middle ground, where you end up doing plenty of the work, but the person learns from it. But this only works if the person is interested in applying themselves.

You will have less problems if you make smart hiring decisions, I think small companies in particular shouldn't skimp on hiring experience, an extra $10k a year in salary can really be the difference between paying one person to do the job or having to get two to figure it all out. Don't go overboard, you don't need to hire engineers for assembly or anything like that, but for engineering, QA (maybe QC), and production management, experienced medical device people can save you a lot of trouble.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Thanks for building upon and providing more insight to the delegation topic.