Try a RAG Report
At its simplest, you might use a RAG report. This is a document which lists the major milestones or tasks in a project. On a regular basis, perhaps weekly or monthly, you might require a report stating which milestones are on target (Green), which are experiencing problems (Amber) and which are looking likely to be missed (Red). The level of detail in this report should be proportionate to the size and importance of the delegated responsibility.
If your team reports that a milestone is Amber, this frees you to discuss the problems, coach people towards solutions if appropriate, or maybe use some of your authority to secure access to the help that is needed. There is no lack of trust, you have not taken responsibility away from the team and yet you are fully in control of the situation.
The power of the RAG report is not in its power to control, but in the fact that it forces everyone to agree up front what is to be achieved and by when. If people are not able to deliver, for whatever reason, you have the chance to act. That may mean to remove the responsibility, change the parameters, or add someone else to the team to improve the chances of success. Providing this is done clearly as a thought out solution to an identified problem, then it does not imply lack of trust, it shows that you are taking appropriate managerial action in response to a situation brought to your attention by the team or individual holding the responsibility.
The RAG report will at least help you sleep at night, though perhaps not if every item on it has reached the Red stage. Should this happen (despite your best efforts at support) your team are not able to deliver what has been delegated. So, what should you learn from the situation? Well perhaps first establish whether it was possible to deliver and what were the main causes of failure. Assuming that there were no extreme circumstances beyond control affecting the project, you need to reflect on your decision. The decision to delegate the responsibility was yours and not theirs, therefore if it turned out to be the wrong decision, it was your mistake and not theirs.
- Could you have foreseen the failure?
- Did the team lack the skill?
- Did you fail to keep control?
- Did you underestimate the scale of the Challenge?
- What could you do differently next time to have a better chance of success?