Stop Doing Their Work
Who Owns the Monkey?
The following article is not traditional time management. That stuff is good and works but doesn’t address the core problem – if you are doing the wrong things, doing it well is not smart and doesn’t fit our theme about Growing Managers. I was exposed to the work of Bill Oncken many years ago and it had a major impact on my management approach.
The First Premise
Doing the right thing wrong is better than doing the wrong thing right. Much like Drucker’s work on managerial effectiveness, the issue is the choice managers make on what receives their attention and what is ignored. Getting this right is core to making good choices. Even if you are less than competent is much better than doing things you are good at that don’t matter. By the way – this decision starts with the owner and flows down the organization.
The Second Premise
Not everything that crosses your desk (or in your voice mail or email) belongs to you. One force of organizational nature are problems always rise to the top. This is where the monkey analogy comes in. Think about a Nat Geo movie and a troop of monkeys are foraging for food on the ground. What happens when danger appears? They scurry screaming up the closest tree. The same thing happens in business. Problems quickly climb until reaching the owner’s office.
The Third Premise
Problems (monkeys) don’t care which office they live in, they want care. Ever lived with a monkey? They are noisy, dirty, clingy, etc., making it impossible to work. Most unaware managers become monkey farmers and wonder why they cannot get anything done. The real situation is employee jobs are interfering with your job.
The Fourth Premise
Most managers (monkey farmers) are their own worst enemy. They operate with the mindset that every employee should see “an expert at work” and make the transfer easier.
How does this happen? An employee meets you in the hall and they have a problem. They tell you enough to create concern but not enough to solve it on the spot. So you say something like “I will get back to you on that”. Understand during the conversation the monkey moved from their back to yours. Whoever has the next step has the monkey.
4 Rules to Fix It
- Determine its Owner. Start by taking out a piece of paper and write down your total compensation for the year. Given that a normal year has 2080 work hours, divide your total compensation by 2000 – that is what you are paidper hour. Now you are in the right frame of mind to look at all the monkeys on your desk, in your email, on your voicemail. Which of the jobs are worth your time? You now have a list of things you should do and this is the perfect target for traditional time management. If it is not worth what it cost, move to number 2.
- Provide Feeding Instructions. This is all about bringing people into your office and handing their monkeys back. If you are certain they cannot do the job, provide them with feeding instructions on how but never forget Rule #4.
- Or Shoot. If this issue/task doesn’t provide value anywhere or isn’t worth the labor – decide not to do it. If that is the decision – shoot it in public to make sure everyone knows to stop work on it immediately.
Never Have the Next Step
I saved the best rule for last. Never, never, never allow an employee to leave a conversation with you having the next step. It leads to reverse supervision – employees checking with you to see if you have finished their work. Hopefully this has happened to you enough you can hold the line. Make sure when the conversation is finished, they have the next step and are reporting back to you