Lazy delegation is where work is given, but the reason for it is not. Lazy delegation is common and it is damaging.
I was briefing some fellow trainers recently to deliver a tailored Change Management course to one of our clients. In this course we had included some material on Viktor Frankl. I was not surprised at all that most of the trainers had not heard of Frankl; he had the misfortune to die in the same week as Mother Teresa and Diana Princess of Wales, so his passing and his life's work did not gain the attention it deserved at the time.
As a young man, Frankl was interned into a Death Camp during World War II. When he arrived, he asked himself the question: "What sort of people will survive this?" [I remember Jim Collins saying at a leadership conference I attended a few years ago that all good research starts with a great question.]
In short he discovered, that among those who were given the chance - that is, those who were not just taken away and executed - the survivors were all people who had something to live for beyond the camp, whereas those who gave up the will to go on in that dreadful place usually grounded their hope and their meaning within the circumstances of the camp.
In fact, the guards seem to know this. They devised a special form of torture whereby they took a random detail of prisoners and made them move a pile of rubbish from one end of the camp to the other. It was back-breaking work. The next day the guards would select the same group and get them to move that mound of rubbish back to exactly the same spot it was before. By taking any rational meaning out of the prisoners' work, the guards sought to take away their will to live, to grind them down.
After the War, Frankl went on to found a branch of psychotherapy called Logotherapy (from the Greek word 'logos' meaning 'Word' or 'Meaning'). He devised a cognitive therapy strategy whereby he helped patients to mental health by helping them to connect with what was most important in their lives, to connect with meaning. He set out his discovery and some of his experiences in an amazing book called Man's Search For Meaning.
I tell delegates this story sometimes on our change management courses and I ask: how often do we do the equivalent of getting people to move around the rubbish? By decanting work of any meaning for people, we do just that; and we lose health and motivation from our organisations in the process.
And we do that in projects that start without clear business cases.
And we do that in inflicting change on people without explaining the benefits.
And we can do that with lazy delegation: not taking the care to explain 'why' when we ask somebody to do a piece of work for us.