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Higher Education Policy and Practice

Rules for Delegating Project Management

Presidents and chief administrative officers need to develop a fine hand at delegating authority.  My recent blog on Scarce Resources speaks to the limited amount of time and energy that the top level administrators have.  If the president tries to do everything for everyone else, then nothing will be done well because mistakes will be made as strategic initiatives and projects are rushed or put aside and forgotten when there is not enough time.   The same problem exists for chief administrators who do not develop the skill to delegate authority.

For some reason, many higher education leaders are reluctant to delegate authority.  Or, when they do delegate work, they give imprecise instructions or they give the instructions verbally and too often the delegation takes place in a passing conversation.  The result is the same, the leader making the delegation assumes that the delegation is understood, and the person receiving the delegation may or may not understand what was said but is reluctant to ask for clarification.  The result is a botched delegation and what was done or not done does not meet the expectations of the leader making the delegation.  Eventually, leaders just dive in and do it themselves, and they have fallen into the trap of expending their scarce time and energy resources on something that could have been done by someone else.

Before we lay out the rules of delegation, we need to define what delegation means.  Project delegation occurs when someone is given authority and responsibility to complete a specific project or task within a specified time period and when the project is completed, the leader’s position ends.  Examples of project management would be the development of student flow procedures from admissions, registration, academic services, to graduation.  The reason for this blog is to provide presidents and chief administrative officers with a template for managing the process of delegation for a short-term, project.

This blog will lay out basic rules of delegation for short-term projects.  Effective delegation of authority should have a Statement of Delegation that clearly states authority, control, communications, participants, and funds available for managing the project.  The rules for delegating project management are described below.

  • Major sections of the Statement of Delegation:
    • Description of the project
    • Objective of the project
    • Project Leaders authority and responsibility
    • Report and Management assignment of a Chief Administrative Officer
    • Handoff of the project to operational managers, if appropriate
    • Project Leaders Name
    • Colleagues assigned to the project work team
    • Time-line
    • Budget
    • Reports
  • Project Description Section:  a brief two or three sentence description of the project and its purpose
  • Project Objective:  what the team is to accomplish by when
  • Project Leader’s Authority:  the authority that the Project Leader is assigned to accomplish, coordinate, control, and resolve conflicts
  • Report and Management:  assign a Chief Administrative Officer (or the President if the Project Leader is a Chief Administrative Officer) to supervise, review, and resolve obstacles or problems that delay completion of the project
  • Handoff:  how and when the project becomes operations
  • Project Leaders Name and Colleagues:  names, email addresses, and phone numbers
  • Time-line:  specifies when the project starts, when reports are due, and date for completing the project
  • Budget:  refers to funds assigned to complete the project
  • Reports:  list the type of reports needed to show progress and to whom the reports are sent.


Delegation is only effective when the chief administrative officer (or the President) who supervises the Project Leader meets regularly with the Leader to review progress, problems and cost.  If these supervisory meetings do not take place there is a good chance that the project may fail to accomplish its objective or meet its deadlines.  Delegation is an interactive process that calls for a continuous flow of information between supervisor, project leader, and colleagues participating in the project.

About the Author: Mike Townsley, Ph.D.

Michael Townsley has more than 20 years of experience in academic services, financial systems, budgets, marketing strategy, payment plans, IT administration, ancillary operations, and site management. Mike is Senior Consultant with Stevens Strategy and former President of Pennsylvania Institute of Technology. During his 20 years … (Read More)

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