Delegation is a skill

Early in my PM career, I was working for a marketing agency. I was responsible for a newsletter that went out every Friday morning. It was consistently late. They needed a PM.

Monday through Thursday, the editors, designers and copywriters would discuss topics and content. On Thursday afternoon, they would send their final version to a freelance developer.

They sliced images and wrote HTML-with-tables-code that would work across multiple browsers. All this was way before mass mailing software was user-friendly. The content was always delivered late, the work was tedious and last-minute changes were the rule. Freelancers flat-out refused to work for the agency. A shit job that was unpredictable and didn’t pay well.

Here’s what I should have done: I should have missed the first delivery completely. No newsletter on Friday at all. This would send a shock and the post-mortem would reveal what we could do to improve. We needed to wake up the right people. Can we set up a point-of-no-return on Wednesday evening? Can we make a reusable HTML template? How can we plan better?

Unfortunately, here’s what I did: “I know HTML! I’ll fix it myself.”

Every Thursday morning, I would nag the team to send their final version. At night, I would write HTML and manually test it against multiple browsers. Every Friday morning, I opened my mailbox after three hours of sleep to find last-minute demands for changes.

My heroics didn’t help the company. Newsletters were late and of low quality. Nobody got an incentive to do better. I worked hard to achieve little.

Leadership, management and delegation are tough skills to learn. We can’t expect newbies to just do it right from day one.

Support those you put in a leadership position.