It was Richard Branson who said, doubtless reflecting the wisdom of many before him: "If you really want to grow, you’ve got to learn to delegate." Here’s a recent event to illustrate this:

It begins with Xi Guang-An, a Chinese hitman (from the Guangxi province, for those who like to get these things right), a contract killer and a bad man generally. In these difficult times, he manages to secure a contract. To kill someone (who shall remain anonymous mainly because we don’t know his name). So far so good.

But Xi, being one of those professionals who thinks delegation is the opposite of getting your hands dirty, subcontracts the job to Mo Tiang-Xiang. Mo’s payment from the original pot is somewhat less than Xi’s was, but perhaps he was a friend, perhaps he wanted to buy his girlfriend jewellery, perhaps, perhaps.

Anyway, importantly, Mo agrees to take on the job. And then the delegation bug hits him too. Let me hand over a very small portion of my take to Yang Kang-Sheng, he reasons, and go for a movie instead. Or maybe a football match. The newspaper reports aren’t clear on this. Nor do they state with any authority the amount of money involved at each stage.

But we know – or can guess – that Xi gets more money than he gives Mo who retains more money than he pays Yang. We don’t know what Yang’s reasoning is. Perhaps he remembers a pressing appointment, or someone tells him that killing people is not the way to make a living, or maybe he is being honoured as an alumnus of his old school, and the ceremony can’t be postponed.

And so the chain grows longer. Yang brings in another link – Ling Xian-Si – on roughly (I am guessing here) the same terms.

You can imagine the conversation at this stage. "That’s all I am being paid, Ling. You will have to make do with two per cent. It’s an important job, and it will look very impressive on your CV as you go on to bigger and better things."

That probably convinces Ling.

But in the end two things happen.

Or rather one thing happens and one doesn’t. What doesn’t is that the assignment is not completed. The anonymous victim survives despite the weight of the serial delegation, and for all we know is blissfully ignorant of all the drama that led up to his being alive today.

The one thing that happens is that the five professional hitmen receive the Ig Nobel prize for their effort (or lack of it) when the awards are announced this year. They win the Management Prize.

Branson would be proud of them. They certainly grew.

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