You’ve heard the phrase, “Get it off your plate—delegate!” It’s a nice phrase for those of us to justify passing off work, isn’t it? However, in an organization, delegation is a much more serious challenge. Market demand dictates that no deadlines can be missed; you miss a deadline, and it may affect the bottom line. In the case of quality management systems (QMS) and environment, health, and safety (EHS) management systems, missed activities can have an adverse effect on quality and safety, something that cannot be tolerated in organizations today.
As a result, we have backup roles, cross-training, and delegation rules in place to ensure that if someone is out, or is not able to complete their tasks, the work still gets done. In the case of QMS and EHS management systems, these delegation rules are often built into the system. This automates the process of assigning tasks and enabling the process to get completed without relying on one single person for any step. However, there are some best practices when looking at delegation management, especially those within an automated QMS or EHS system.
1. Delegation management must have workflow: Many QMS and EHS solutions are built upon a workflow-based platform, ensuring the processes are followed in the proper time frame and follow the proper steps. So, too, must delegation management follow a workflow process. If not, then someone could simply be passing all their work off to their delegate with reckless abandon. Delegation management workflows are simple: Assign, delegate, get approval (either from the manager or the delegate), set an active period of delegation, and set an expiration of delegated responsibilities. With these rules in place, you are creating a visibility into the delegation reason, gaining management approval, and setting a time frame for the delegation. This way, when you come back, you’re back on the clock, so to speak.
2. Delegation must be able to handle multiple delegates: Most employees are cross-trained in multiple functions within an organization. However, it can happen that not all functions for one employee can be completed by a single delegate. There may be cases where one aspect of a job is assigned to one delegate, and another aspect is assigned to a different delegate. Delegation management is about finding the right person for the job, not passing off work to the next guy in line. Automated QMS and EHS systems should be able to delegate by application, by process, or similar functions. This way, an employee may have multiple delegates to cover their responsibilities, making the work less strenuous on a single delegate. Like any workflow, you should be able to select the functions you want to delegate and set the assignment based on function.
3. Escalation management is a critical part of a QMS and EHS solution: With any workflow-based system, the key benefit is that the process is automated and work is kept on track within the specified time frame. But what happens if an assigned step in the process is ignored? We’ve all ignored e-mails in the past—it’s human nature in this modern day and age—but what if the e-mail ignored is part of the QMS or EHS solution? How do we handle this and keep the process moving forward in the system? Escalation management is the answer. With escalation, you can define rules so that if a certain step is not completed within a specified time period, it will start sending reminders to you to complete the task. If ignored, it will start sending notifications to your boss, or even your boss’s boss, and so forth. Escalation can be set in many different ways and with any number of levels:
Your escalation may be a bit simpler than in the illustration above—it may just be a reminder a day early to complete the task, then a reminder on the due date, then an escalation to a manager or team to complete overdue assignments. Whatever rules you choose, the goal is clear—escalate in order to keep your work on track, and keep the quality and safety system moving forward.
Whether you are out sick, going on vacation or keeping track of critical processes, it is extremely important to have a delegation management system in place. Whether you operate a quality management system or an environmental health and safety management system, the same rules apply; keep work on track, don’t miss the critical process steps, and ensure that someone somewhere is getting the job done.