When Delegation Can Help or Hurt Your Model

For decades, we have all watched the same scene in the movies.  The high powered executive-owner gives an underling an almost impossible yet highly important task.  After several minutes of stressing out on screen, the protagonist has a lightbulb moment and saves the day.  The real question is, why did the boss leave the task to anybody else to begin with?

Presumably the owner would want to be a part of such an important business event, but that’s not reality…or is it?  Startups are victim of the same thing we see in the movies.  Owners of the new business hire some marketing firm to help them find the path.  When they don’t, they get fired and a new one hired.  That group doesn’t deliver either, gets fired, a new one gets hired, so on and so forth until the end of time.  Steve blank argues this doesn’t make sense and the owner should take charge of this.  After all this person ought to know the customers better than anyone and be able to lay out a path for the success of the company.  Blank is absolutely right, owners should take responsibility for their firm.  Forbes writer Martin Zwilling lists ten pivots a lean startup can make, http://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2011/09/16/top-10-ways-entrepreneurs-pivot-a-lean-startup/.  How many of those would any owner feel comfortable having another person make?  In contrast, how many owners would want to be central in deciding which pivot was made and how?  The ability to blame failure on another is not one most entrepreneurs can afford.  However that doesn’t mean the responsibility rests solely on one manager’s shoulders.

Employee empowerment is something that’s been on the tip of everyone’s tongues lately.  It makes sense why it works, but often giving up power to employees is a hard thing for owners to do, especially in a startup.  After all, it was your idea, not theirs…right?  The truth is, it’s the business and customers that matter.  In today’s world, getting that idea off the ground, making pivots, and discovering the correct product and customer base in the least amount of time possible is absolutely essential.  It makes sense to give work to others.  The process will be completed more quickly, but will it be well done.  It makes more sense to give work to other owners.  Make sure everyone is invested and willing to work as a team by making everyone working on the initial product a major owner.  It’s a huge mistake for a startup business.  Hiring a temporary consultant from an outside firm will only give you temporary direction.  You as owners don’t benefit from the learning the consultant experienced about your business and product nearly as much as if you or several owners were out doing the same work.  Take responsibility for your own work, but also bring in others to help create something wonderful.  It will make sharing success that much sweeter if you have others to experience the entire process with.

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