Delegation is one of the most important management skills we could learn in any profession. The ability to hand off the right task to the right person can be tough, especially if you’re not sure if you have the right person on hand, but mostly because it’s one of the biggest acts of trust you can find within the corporate workplace.
In the insights industry, delegation is more important than ever. With the amount of data we sift through on a daily basis, it can be hard to keep up with it all and we end up being buried in to-do lists and an ever-waning limit of attention we are able to dedicate to any one project. Sometimes in order to focus on the projects, tasks, and data that require our attention most, we need to pass others onto our colleagues who might have more time, or more of a specialism on that topic to do it more justice. So, when it comes to learning how to delegate, where do we start?
The Balance of Delegation
Delegation is an important, albeit overlooked, piece of the puzzle to scaling the influence and ability of insight professionals in both agencies and in-house teams. It allows insight teams to operate at maximum efficiency, however, there is still a question of how we can do that effectively. For some, it means allocating tasks and duties to those who are qualified and experienced enough to do them; but for others it means training individuals to be able to turn their hand to any task, so they can do it if the team needs them to.
There is some supporting commentary towards delegating based on specialism; in some capacities, it means dedicating time to apply our own strengths within our allocated tasks, and alleviate the stresses within an insight team associated with individuals who feel certain tasks are out of their depth. However, delegation can also be a significant learning opportunity, with key skills being honed within the team as a team, so that when the time comes anyone can step in and manage that task just as well.
In the end, the main goal is to build better insights so they can inform decisions and inspire actions across organisations. We need to balance that desire to hand tasks over to those most capable (the specialist in the team) and the practicality of handing a task over to someone who has time to spend on it; only then will we achieve a level of efficiency that allows us to scale an insight team’s ability.
Impactful Delegation in the Real World
Lending some valuable real-world experience on the matter, we’ve spoken to Alice Williams from the Research & Insight team at British Gas about how they have adapted over time to split activities and responsibilities more effectively:
“A few years ago, our Customer Insight team was split into distinct specialisms. Some of the team would focus solely on Brand & Marketing Insight, some worked on Customer Experience, and others on Propositions or Competitor Insight. This more traditional approach helped us achieve strong stakeholder relationships and ‘go to’ experts in the team. However, the demands from the business and the resource in our team weren’t always evenly matched. To be more effective, we needed to become more flexible in the delegation of our workload.
Now, we have some responsibilities that a certain person in the team will ‘own’, such as our brand tracker, but generally we flex to work on the areas where research and insight can add most value. Projects can be delegated to whoever in the team has the capacity, so we can be more agile in supporting our various stakeholders. Moving away from specialisms comes with the added benefit of us helping to lead more joined up conversations across the business. Prioritisation should (in theory!) become easier. Insight briefs don’t always come from a single stakeholder team now, but increasingly from working groups involving a combination of Strategy, Marketing, Propositions and CX.
And some of our insight colleagues now sit full time in multi-disciplinary teams working to improve customer journeys, which means they are building the customer instinct amongst our stakeholders and not just delivering insight but helping to implement it as well.
I would say that being a specialist now feels less important than understanding the bigger picture.”
Key Tactics for the Insights Industry
So, how do we delegate tasks to the right people? One good starting point is to take stock of who is on your team, what their strengths are, where their weaknesses lie, and how to help them work in the best way towards the shared goals of the team. Once you know who is on your team, you can arrange to delegate the regular tasks and duties out to those who have the time and capabilities to do so. Then when any surprise tasks emerge, you already have an idea of who to delegate that task to through this thorough understanding of your team.
Another starting point for those who don’t have a fully-formed team yet, is to focus on building the right team so you know who to delegate to at any moment in time — this will work to establish the purpose of each individual’s role within the team, build up their skills so they can feasibly drop onto any given task and knock it out of the park when needed, help them understand what they contribute to the team and the goal of scaling the team’s ability to produce valuable insights on demand. One way to get started is to look at a hierarchical team structure typically used in the insights industry and use that as a flexible template to build your own.
Another route to consider might be automation. Insight managers don’t have to delegate to another person, if a task could be automated and you have the budget and time to implement this software, then why not? By incorporating automation into a research technology stack, tasks such as research sampling and keyword analysis could become a lot easier and quicker if we’re able to set parameters and have an algorithm do the rest. Granted, algorithms are liable to some bias depending on the datasets they were trained on, however for smaller tasks like this it could help save time here and there that really adds up in the long-run.
We’ve focussed a lot on in-team delegating in this blog, but what about outside of the insights team? Insight professionals have a lot of work to do inside a team, with one of the core challenges still in effect today being insight activation. In order for our insights to impact a product, service, or organisation in the way it’s intended, we need to better reach stakeholders. This is where the Insights Advocate comes in. By delegating the promotion of insights to Insight Advocates in other departments, in-team insight professionals can focus on insight generation and pass those insights onto the advocates, who then broadcast those results wherever they can and actively embed them into decisions around the whole organisation.
Scaling the Influence of an Insights Team
One last path worth a mention is scaling the influence of an in-house research team through delegating responsibilities to a research agency. In this way, insight professionals in agencies can act as an extension to the in-house research team as and when needed, so in-house insight professionals can focus more on data analysis or insight activation.
With these delegation techniques in place, insight teams can work more efficiently on insight generation and activation techniques, and focus on how to better reach stakeholders. Implementing critical changes that refine operational processes and communication to suit stakeholders and amplify their influence across external teams and organisations.
This article was originally published on the FlexMR website, and can be accessed here.