This priceless book is one of the best Management books that I have come across dealing with the subject of Organizational Staff’s Time Management. If you are someone who feels overwhelmed with the problems created by other people, reading this book and applying the lessons learned from it can change your life. It definitely did to mine. It preaches to the discerning reader an unforgettable lesson; how to save time to do what you want & need to do. Step by step the authors of this book using examples & story-telling show how the managers can free themselves from doing everyone else’s job and ensure that every problem is handled by the proper person. By using the 4 – rules of Monkey Management, managers of today will learn to become effective supervisors of time, energy and their own talent.
The book begins by telling a story about a harried monkey manager who worked for long, hard hours, yet never quite seemed to get caught up with all the work he had to do. He then learned about monkey management and how not to take initiative away from his people so they can care for and feed their own “monkeys.” In this process, he learned to be more effective in dealing with his own manager and the demands of his organization. The performance of his department drastically improved as did the prospects for his career.
In the good old days, when one became a manager things were a lot easier because one’s own performance depended strictly on one’s own efforts. In those days, the longer and harder one worked, the more work one got done. However, in today’s age, the formula works in reverse. Typically all that the managers these days do are to shuffle between papers without ever making progress on the real work that needs to be done. This is defined as triumph of technique over purpose; one is doing more but accomplishing less. How Paradox this is! There is just no time left to implement the ideas for improving operations, to do planning, coordinating, staffing, and other key managerial tasks that will keep the unit functioning well towards the future. And then attempts to address these key issues by working overtime, on weekends, attending seminars, hiring outside help address merely the symptoms of the problem, not the cause itself. It is like taking an aspirin to reduce the fever but ignoring the illness that caused the fever. As a result, the problem gets progressively worse.
In this book, A Monkey is defined as “the next move.” Typically a manager’s subordinate will have a problem. Whilst he is explaining it to him, the monkey is on his back. When they both are talking, the matter is under joint consideration i.e. the monkey had one leg on each of their backs. When the manager says that he needs time to think over a possible solution to the problem the monkey has moved his leg from the subordinate’s back onto the manager’s back and the subordinate walks away 10 kilos lighter. In this manner the manager assumes the worker role & vice-versa. For every monkey there are two parties involved: one to work for it and one to supervise it.
When the manager picks up the monkeys that his people could have handled, he gives the message that he wants the monkeys. So naturally, the more he picks up, the more he gets. And so on a normal workday, he has as many as he can handle apart from the regular requirements of the job like reporting to his Boss and others. This way the monkeys keep coming & multiplying to a point where he has to borrow time from his personal life: exercise, hobbies, and eventually the family. And then the manager starts to procrastinate whilst the staff waits. This is referred as a costly duplication of effort. By spending all his time working on other people’s monkeys means that the manager has no opportunity to work on his own. He is not managing. He is being managed. He is not proactive, but strictly reactive. He is merely coping.
The manager is recommended to attend to a seminar titled “Managing Management Time” which helps him to learn the golden principle “Things not worth doing are not worth doing well.” & “The more you get rid of your people’s monkeys, the more time you have for your people”. As a manager, to the extent that one can get people to care for and feed their own monkeys, they are really managing the work themselves.
This is illustrated in the book by the Oncken’s 4 Rules of Monkey Management. The dialogue between a boss and one of his or her people must not end until all monkeys have:
Rule 1. Appropriate “next moves” identified and specified.
Rule 2. Owners: The monkey is assigned to a person i.e. who is responsible for it, ownership. This must begin from the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare.
Rule 3. Insurance Policies: The risk is covered. Every Monkey leaving the presence of the Manager on the back of one of his people must be “recommended & acted upon” or “acted & then advised upon.”
Rule 4. Monkey feeding and checkup appointments: The time and place for follow-up is specified. Proper follow-up means healthier monkeys. Every monkey should have a checkup appointment.
The author states an example of these 4 rules by way of a dialogue between a manager and a subordinate. The manager explains to his subordinate, “We do not have a problem, and we will never again have one. I am sure that there is a problem, but it is not ours, it is either yours or mine. The first item on the agenda is to neaten up the pronouns and find out whose problem this is. If it turns out to be my problem, I hope you will help me with it. If it turns out to be your problem, I will help you with it subject to the following condition: at no time while I am helping you with your problem will your problem become my problem, because the minute your problem becomes my problem, you will no longer have a problem and I can’t help a person who does not have a problem!”
The purpose of the rules of monkey management is to help ensure that the right things get done the right way at the right time by the right people. On a precautionary note, the author also states the rules of Monkey Management should be applied only to monkeys that deserve to live. Some do not. He urges to ask the question: “why are we doing this?” If there is no viable answer, shoot the monkey so that the next time one will not be doing more efficiently things that should not have been done in the first place. The monkey is not a project or a problem; the monkey is whatever the ‘next move’ is on a project or a problem.
In order to ensure that the problem does not occur repeatedly i.e. a permanent cure the author recommends:
· Delegation – whereby the people are achieving more and more with less and less involvement from the manager. Whilst assigning involves a single monkey; delegation involves a family of monkeys. And once delegation is reached, staying there is easy compared with the job of getting there.
· Practice Hands-Off Management as much as possible and Hands-On Management as much as necessary. People are fully responsible for their projects unless a problem is encountered that requires intervention. This practice leads to self-management, which is a lot better than the high degree of boss-management that one experience’s while assigning monkeys. The assignments should be boss-initiated only to the extent that the staff member cannot initiate them.
· It is better to strike a straight blow with a crooked stick rather than spend the whole life trying to straighten the darn thing out.
What are the learning’s that one derives at the end of reading this book? That one must be able to clearly measure success by what one is able to get the people to do, not by what one does by oneself. In order to do that, the mentality has to change from that of a do-er to that of a manager. Learn to replace the psychological rewards of doing with the rewards of managing, namely, deriving satisfaction from what the people do and being recognized, paid, and promoted accordingly.
In the past, one spent much of the time fighting fires; now most of them can be prevented by spending just a little time in advance. In the past, a great deal of one’s time is spent in reacting to other people; now it can be spent a great deal in proactive measures. These include doing some advance planning for a change so as to enable to do the right things the right way the first time instead of having to do them over so often.
Perhaps the greatest lesson learnt about monkey management, at work and at home, is that there are always more monkeys clamoring for attention than the time one has to manage them. Hence unless one is extremely careful about which to accept responsibility for, it is very easy to wind up caring for the wrong monkeys while the really important ones are starving for lack of attention. If we thoughtlessly try to handle all of them, our efforts will be diluted to the point where none of them are healthy.