What gets tracked, gets done. This is especially important to remember when you have delegated or outsourced a technical writing project or task that you are ultimately responsible for. It is easy for managers and technical writers to follow one of two extremes when delegating - the micromanager or the extremely trustworthy manager that never follows up.
The effective delegator clearly assigns tasks to one person, articulates expectations and deadlines, and uses systems to track the tasks. By using tracking systems, the delegator can provide autonomy to the individual completing the task, yet still be aware of the progress without micromanaging.
Before I share Novatek's delegation steps, I want to draw attention to one very popular system that is often problematic for task tracking...
For the most part, email is the method of choice for most workplace communication. As messages accumulate, the Inbox often get cluttered to the point where important messages are buried and completely forgotten. This is dangerous for anyone who has delegated a task and is relying on email as the system for tracking progress and addressing any problems or delays along the way.
If email is your task tracking system, start by getting your Inbox and email habits under control:
Reduce the volume of emails
- Use your Inbox only for current items. If an email isn’t current, act on it, file it or, better yet, delete it.
- If you find yourself on distribution lists that simply don’t apply to you, ask to be removed.
- Only send emails if your intended receivers can act on the information and it’s within the scope of their work duties.
- Refrain from automatically hitting Reply All and Copy All, except when it makes good sense.
- Reconsider sending acknowledgments and thank-yous.
- When requesting information via email, describe the task, your expectations, and the target date for completion so that the respondent doesn’t need to get back to you for clarification.
Alter your methods of communicating
If you need a response:
- Immediately – call cell phone
- In 30 minutes – call office phone
- In a few hours – text or instant message (IM)
- In a day or later – email
If you need a more involved discussion, arrange:
- Individual face-to-face meetings
- Group team meetings (video conferencing or face-to-face)
- If you are planning something, pick up the phone—going back and forth with bits of information in an email is time consuming and frustrating, and contributes to email overload
5 Steps for Delegating and Tracking Technical Writing Tasks
To make delegation work successfully for technical writing projects, you must be able to track the tasks you assign and verify that these tasks are completed by the required deadline. When delegating technical writing projects or tasks:
1. Make sure the assignments are individual and specific. Confirm that each team member understands their assignments and accepts responsibility for them.
2. Spell out the outcome you expect. In other words, define the "deliverables" each team member is required to provide. This will enable you to determine if the individual tasks were completed as assigned.
3. Be clear about milestones and deadlines. Don’t assume. If a milestone or deadline is critical to completing the technical writing project on time or within budget, stress this to your team.
4. Use a weekly status report to task track. This is crucial. You need to be able to follow the progress and pitfalls of the project and provide assistance as needed to stay within your Documentation Plan.
5. Let everyone involved know the preferred methods of communication to be used. Don’t let the weekly status report be your only interaction with your team. Remember, your primary focus is the end result. Although you don’t want to micromanage, you do want to be available to guide your team to a successful outcome using a variety of communication methods (face-to-face meetings, emails, and phone calls).
Effective delegation is a progression that relies on trust, collaboration, and respect. Allowing teams to make decisions on their own will give each team member a greater sense of accomplishment and ownership in their project and, more importantly, help lighten your workload so that you can focus on core tasks and activities that need your attention.
Track your delegated tasks with our free template:
Technical Writing Status Report
Attribution: Image above courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net.
For a recent Novatek blog that expands on the value of weekly status reports, read: How to Use Status Reports as a Quality Control Tool.