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Delegation Poker - Agile tool for empowerment

Delegation Poker can be used to make it clear who is responsible for what and at what level in the organization or team.

Why should you use delegation poker?

Use Delegation Poker to get a clear picture of who is responsible for what and at what level in the organization. Use it to encourage greater employee engagement and involvement through controlled self-organization, clarified values, and clear decision-making. 

Delegation Poker is designed to introduce a culture of decision-making and delegation at the team level in a controlled environment. Besides this, it is also a good collaboration game. Many teams play it without any point scoring or competition, and rather see it as a starting point for a conversation about who should do what.  

  1. Delegation is not a black-and-white, binary thing. There are many "shades of grey" between dictators and anarchists.
  2. Delegation is a step-by-step process. It is a controlled and gradual transfer of responsibility to others.
  3. Delegation is context-dependent. Even though the best is to delegate as many tasks as possible, if you go too far, chaos can ensue.

“When I presented Delegation Poker to my project team and we started to define the new tasks, the processes we had already agreed on, helped a lot. The new game became a mainstay of our discussions with our bosses, as they understood that it could be easily built into the RACI Matrix.”, said the Team leader of Ortrun offshoring


How to play Delegation Poker?

Every team plays this game differently, so you can either follow the general rules described in this article or make up your own. The key is to organize how you and the whole team view delegation and self-organization.

Start by making a list of pre-defined cases or situations in which you want to put in place delegation rules, and processes that define exactly who influences who and what. This can range from project planning and authority to hiring new team members.

Team members should be organized into groups of three to seven. Each team member has to receive seven cards, numbered from 1 to 7. The numbers on the cards represent the seven levels of the delegation:  

1. Tell: I will tell them. (The delegator decides and informs the delegate of the decision.)

2. Sell: I will try and sell it to them. (The delegator decides, but "sells" the decision to the delegate.)

3. Consult: I will consult and then decide. (The delegator consults the delegate and then decides it.)

4. Agree: We will agree together. (The delegator and the delegate decide together.)

5. Advice: I will advise but they decide. (The delegate advises the delegate, at this level the delegate tries to influence the delegate, but in the end, the delegate decides it.)

6. Inquire: I will inquire after they decide. (The delegator will ask the delegate after the decision has been made and if they disagree, they will try to influence them at this level.)

7. Delegate: I will fully delegate. (The delegator gives full authority to the delegate to decide.)

Team members repeat the following steps for each predefined case:

  1. One person chooses a situation to read aloud or tells a personal story.
  2. Each player chooses one of the seven delegation cards (at this point, they do not show their choice to the others), thinking about how they would delegate the decision in that situation.
  3. Once all team members have made a decision, everyone can reveal their chosen cards.
  4. Everyone scores a point equal to their chosen card, except for the players in the "largest minority" (see below).
  5. Then the players who chose the highest-, and lowest-ranked cards explain the reasons for their choices. 
  6. A Delegation Panel can then be formed to present its opinion on the situation.

The Greatest Minority Rule states that if there is a team member who always chooses the 7th card, then a penalty should be imposed. If only that team member chooses that card, he won’t get any points. If three or four people choose the 7th card in a given situation, then that majority means that each of them will get seven points.

Some people also introduce the Lowest Minority Rule. For example, a boss who always wants to maintain control, or an indecisive teammate who doesn't want any authority.

In addition to the card game, there is another simple tool that people can use to communicate the type of delegation between the manager and the team, or between any two parties. This tool can also help both parties to be open and transparent about what is expected of each other. This tool is called...

Delegation Board

A delegation board is a physical board (either a table or a window looking into a neighbor’s kitchen) that vertically lists several key decision areas that someone delegates to others. And in the horizontal dimension, the board shows the seven levels of delegation. For each key decision area, the board places a note in one of the seven columns, clearly showing everyone how much authority is delegated in that area.

The Delegation Board is useful in several ways. Firstly, it models very well the boundaries and the balancing act of authorization, both of which are needed to get the best out of self-organization. Secondly, by displaying key decision areas and delegation levels, the board can act as a source of information and guidance for anyone looking closely at delegation processes and rules.


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