Tech Manager—Do It or Delegate It
Way back when, I read a book called “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by Paul Allen. His book helped me to get control of the overwhelming number of tasks that have to be done by a Tech Manager in a day/week/month. It is a quick and easy read with a ton of practical ideas for wading through your assignments, requests, to-do’s and more.
One area of his book covers deciding what to work on when things come your way. He has a mantra – Do it. Delegate it. Defer it. Delete it. You can decide which to do by asking yourself a few questions for each item that falls in your lap. “Will this take less than two minutes?” You can expand his timeline (and I do) to be around 10-15 minutes since you are in a support role and the person who gave you the task thinks it is pretty important. Let’s say the answer is, “yes,” and it won’t take that long to get the thing done, then you go to option one.
I have found that just doing the task when it comes up gets it done and off your plate, rather than postponing and coming back to it. If it will take longer than 10 minutes, then you may want to cascade down the list of options. I may be busy, but as a support person, I need to be interruptible at all times. When someone needs something done, I should hop to it. Just get out of your chair and go help. Make a note of what you were working on or mark a place you can return to and then take care of the immediate need.
If it is a task that you need to do for your own benefit and not something others have given you, then doing it now will clear your plate for other things. As things come in and you ask the “2 minute” question, you need to just get the quick ones done and off the list.
Before we move on to option 2, let’s review the use of the “2 minute” question. You should only ask it once. Back in the paper days, it used to be “touch it only once”. Now the “touch” may be digital, like emails, website links, attached PDFs or whatever. It still applies… process items only once, decide what to do and move in the direction of your decision. Don’t push off an item and come back later to ask the question or make the decision. Define it once and move ahead. If the answer is yes – get it done. If the answer is no, then decide what to do next, but do not set it aside without deciding. Don’t procrastinate, you will only take up more of your valuable time.
If the answer is, “no,” and it will take much longer than 2, 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Well then, you need to look at the next option in Paul Allen’s book – Delegating.
I have mentioned delegating in many articles over the years. Most recently, back in Jun2 of 2021, when I wrote an article called “Tech Manager—The Overwhelmed Tech Manager” which talked about the avalanche of demands on your time.
In that article, I mentioned delegating and that you need to learn to give your tasks away and said “Maybe it is time to sharpen your delegation skills. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Even if you are the only one who gets paid to support CAD/BIM, others can help out. And many are willing and eager to help. Tech is exciting for a lot of people you work with. They would love to assist in an area that you trust them with.”
Delegating is something that you have to discipline yourself to do. Why would you give away work? Isn’t that what keeps you employed? But as your firm grows and your workload grows, you will not be able to do it all yourself. I understand that staffing limitation can make it impossible to give things away and some things will just “not get done”. That is the reality of smaller firms have to deal with. And the big boss needs to define when you can bring on other staff to help you get things done. I am going to assume that you can give some of your tasks to others and have people that can help, either direct reports or others. If you have no one, then there is a staffing conversation that needs to happen. That may fit in another article, but not this one.
Let’s assume that there is someone that can take on some of your tasks… but should they? Will they do a good job? What do you give them? What do you keep for yourself?
What to give Away
When you think about it, giving away work does several good things. It frees up your time and it empowers, educates and nurtures others. It also gets things done that may languish if they had to wait for your time to free up.
But delegating is not easy. Many things can make it hard to pass work on to others. From the concept of “it’s my job,” to “no one can get this done right but me,” the excuses for not giving things away can derail efforts to expand the “done” list by having others help. Don’t forget that you get paid to get things done and keep things running. You are usually not paid for completing one task or another from a list, but for generating outcomes that move your teams forward. What better way to move things forward than to have others chip in. You need to fight the desire of just doing it yourself. Your list is too long and your backlog is delaying progress.
But what do you give away? Ask this…, “Am I be best person to get this done right now?” If you need more incentive to pass something off to another person, ask this…, “I can’t do this right now, who can I give it to?”. Or even this…, “Why does this have to be done by me?”
Sometimes, others can do things better or faster than you. Admit it – you are not the best at everything. There are others who can knock out some of your tasks just as good or better than you. You probably already know who they are. And they may know it too. It is not a bad thing to have a collection of star players around you that love to help out. Let them do it.
What to Keep
Keep the stuff that is pivotal to the firm and need extra attention. If you pass on some of your tasks, then you will have more time to focus on the items that are critical to your firm’s future. Keep the things that really match your pay grade. That may seem kind of tactless, but there are a lot of things that can be done by someone else in the firm that is not at the level that you are. I know, you might be the lowest person on the ladder, but still, some things are purely administrative and require no tech knowledge at all to get done. Don’t keep those.
Keep the ones that need your clout of title, knowledge, authority, whatever. Keep the ones that are politically charged and others might have a tough time navigating the opposition of others. Keep the ones that impact culture, like policy changes that have to be escorted down the road. Keep the tasks that are related to company mission or vision, large tech change items and relationship management issues with vendors, staff and other managers. Keep the items that need critical decisions that are still being worked out. Obviously, if you have staff under you, do not delegate hiring, onboarding, motivation, encouragement, discipline and terminations. That is what “managers” have to do. Keep them and give away others.
You should come up with some items to pass on to others. You can move from thinking about what to give away toward what to keep. If it is not on the keep list, give it away. Next time, we will finish up with delegating steps and practical processes. But start thinking about what you can take off your plate to make room for the things you need to be doing.