Do You Make This Mistake When Delegating Tasks?

I discussed with one (non-game developer) guy who had got assignment to “be at this place at 10:00”. After getting this piece of information, the guy was also told “it would be good if you could come little earlier”.

“Little earlier”? What does that mean? Is it 5 minutes earlier? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Why not simply say “be here at 9:45”, that would make the task more clear.

Same thing can happen in game production. Sometimes a programmer might ask “we can do this minimum quality, but do we need to do it with higher quality?”, to which game producer replies “Do the minimum level, but it would be nice to get higher quality.”

“Would be nice”?

In this situation, the programmer didn’t know what to do, and when he asks for help he gets confusing assignment and probably goes home to burn some ants with a magnifying glass to release stress.

If the producer is the one who makes decisions, then he is the guy who needs to say for example that “Do the minimum quality” or “Do the higher quality”. Or, if he needs to think about the resources he could say “Do the minimum quality, but if creating higher quality takes less than 3 days then proceed”.

Giving specific details is really important to avoid any confusion.

(And to help ants to survive.)

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. @Jake: I think that it indeed is one’s duty to make sure that he knows what to do, and if the boss refuses to (or is simply incompetent or busy or whatever) give clear details, then you just gotta make educated guess. Perhaps tell the boss that “I’m going to choose option B and do at like this, and if that’s not okay, come to tell me what needs to be changed”.

    With that being said, I still believe that bosses should be clear enough to give information on what the other needs (but not get into micro managing… since workers gotta take initiative and use their brain to get things done).

    It can be a tricky issue sometimes.

  2. Get everything done the best the first time. Otherwise you will just have to pay to get it done again.

  3. This sounds like a complaint thread. So my question is what can you do about it. My boss is into short emails (he gets so many) but sometimes his meaning is not that clear so I’m going to tell him this so that he can tweak them in future to make them clearer.

  4. And then you get in trouble for both options of “do nothing while trying to get more specific instructions” and “start work so no time is wasted only to find out you did something ‘wrong’ later”.

  5. That’s a nightmare for me those kind of tasks, it happens a lot in the web, sometimes the designer come by my desk and just says :’check the PSD on that folder and do the changes’.
    99% of the time, got to go back to ask him more details… We just got a project manager, and things starts to get better, but as things change very quickly in the web industry (especially when it’s the core business of the company), it’s always like that, always somebody (designer, sales guy, integrator, content manager, …) to come by and ask you something that don’t make sense like “ok i need to flush the CDN in one click. Thanks” , ok and what about precising for which site, which cms, which files : video? audio? images?js?css?

    Gonna kill some ants, brb.

  6. Nice article.
    In my experience, it’s a good thing to give a decision power to people, to let them do things how they think it’s right. It often works well, and I think people enjoy this much more than just following orders.
    The only problem is that people must understand that they are free to do things as they want – otherwise, as you mention in the article, they become confused. Which brings a big frustration and less gets done.

    I’d say: “Do your best, and if you are really stuck, feel free to come and ask me…”

  7. I completely agree. My supervisor gave me a task recently but no details just a “you can check that folder in…”. Well, what project? What structure to follow? What request to use? I certainly don’t want to start work based on an assumption of what you want. Give me specifics.

Comments are closed.