Delegation and Distributed Team Performance

The ways in which tasks can be shared between a team, or delegated to individuals, forms another important element of task management. A classic example of this relates to who assumes the role of pilot flying (being actively in control of the aircraft) in a non-normal or emergency situation. This has been discussed and debated over many years, with alternative points of view being regularly put forward. One school of thought suggests that the junior crew member, the first officer, should be given the role of pilot flying, thus freeing up the captain to engage in more immersive higher-order cognitive functions such as problem identification, solution generation, risk analysis and other aspects of decision-making.

Another example of this involves the point at which an anaesthetist will call for assistance when a problem with the patient or equipment arises. This is often a point of significant discussion in debriefing of anaesthesia crisis resource management sessions. Enrolling the assistance of juniors and shedding simple tasks to relieve workload, and enrolling the assistance of seniors to provide a second opinion or assist with greater knowledge and skills, are two strategies that are equally appropriate in many situations. The important thing is to assist trainees in knowing what options exist with respect to delegation and/ or assistance, and when different solutions might be appropriate.

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