5 Ways to Take Back a Delegated Project

I’m a fan of delegation. In fact, I consider myself somewhat of a professional delegator, if there is such a thing. I certainly love to delegate.

If you want to read more of my thoughts on delegation, consider:

5 Reasons Delegation Fails
No Dumping: 5 Keys to Effective Delegation
4 Critical Aspects of Delegation
4 “Easy” Steps to Delegation

Also, on the subject of delegation…

Have you ever given away a project, though, and wished you could take it back?

Recently someone emailed me with the question of how to do it.

Maybe it was the wrong fit. Perhaps the person was overloaded with other responsibilities. It could be they simply weren’t cut out for the task. You may have misjudged their potential, so you gave them the delegation. Now you wish you hadn’t.

What do you do?

How do you take back a delegated project without causing hurt feelings, injuring a valued team member, or causing disruption in the organization? Many times the person has assumed a certain sense of ownership and pride in the assignment, even if they haven’t done a good job with it. Taking the project away from them may feel like personal rejection. What do you do?

Here are 5 ways to take back a delegated project:

Set up the right to remove on the front end – The process should really be clear from the beginning. The culture of a healthy organization has everyone operating as a team. It’s easier to do the right thing on a healthy team, even reassign an project. You may not be able to do that this time, but certainly work towards establishing that environment for the future.

Make sure you delegate well – Effective delegation will eliminate much of the need to take back a project. You can read more about healthy delegation HERE and HERE, but basically, try to help. This can happen at any stage in the project, but ideally should come before and during the process of completing a delegated project. It could be the person doesn’t have all the answers or all the resources to complete what’s been assigned. They may be afraid to ask for help.

Do it quickly – As soon as you realize the person is not going to be able to complete the task, if you’ve tried working with them, but it hasn’t helped, address and re-assign as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for everyone.

Do it graciously – If done correctly, it could be a relief for them, as well as the organization. You may be able to refocus the person’s attention on other things, but certainly you should try to encourage their overall potential in the process.

Help them learn – They may not have been able to do this particular project, but, if handled correctly, It could end up being beneficial for their personal development. Help them see what they did wrong, why the delegated task is being reassigned, and how they could do things differently in the future.

The bottom line is that the organization must move forward. Sometimes that means tasks have to be reassigned. Good leaders are willing to make hard decisions, even if that means taking back a delegated project.

Have you ever had to take back a delegated project? How did you do it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “5 Ways to Take Back a Delegated Project

  1. Yes. Love the post, and was thinking about your last point in my head before I read it. There are a million cliches that speak to it . . . my preferred one is "failure is the best teacher." I have learned more from failing in my life than success. Solid takeaways, as usual.

  2. Delegation is so important to everything from household chores, setting up a production team and beyond. I have to 'take back' some of my home projects all the time! LOL. But doing it graciously, as you put it, is key. Great pointers. I haven't really looked at it from that view….

    Enjoy the day's projects…: )

  3. Thanks for the tips Ron! Right now, the work gets delegated to me from my director. And, I am on the execution part. I beleive such suggestions will help me when I raise up the ladder in my career.

    Also, when we need to take back a delegated project, we can always make the delegatee see the big picture and help him understand about the importance of success of the team rather than that of individual