Ways to distinguish yourself – #46 Manage your monkeys

Ways to distinguish yourself – #46 Manage your monkeys

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 21 Oct 2005, 9:19 AM – 1 Comment

Not literally, of course! Authors William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass wrote an article in HBR titled “Who’s Got the Monkey” and interestingly after 30 years, it’s still extremely relevant today.

Monkey management is mostly useful to managers but all of us can learn something out of it. So, here it is:

Monkey management is the art of managing upward delegation. When one of

your employees comes to you with an unsolved problem he has two choices

– one to ask for help and the other is to transfer the problem to you.

The later is the classic case of upward delegation. When you take an

unsolved problem from your subordinates, you are allowing a figurative

monkey to leap from your employee’s back to your back. If you have more

than one subordinates, you may end up carrying a number of monkeys on

your back. This will not only cause you undue stress but also your

subordinates won’t progress on the job.

I won’t list everything in the article. However, here is the basic law for managing monkeys (as the authors put it)

At no

time while I am helping you will your problem become my problem. The

instant your problem becomes mine, you will no longer have a problem. I

cannot help someone who hasn’t got a problem. You may ask my help at

any appointed time, and we will make a joint determination of what the

next move will be and who will make it.

Quick question: How many monkeys are on your back today?




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One comment already – Add Yours

Anonymous  on April 25th, 2006

Interesting concept!

From original authors text “At no time while I am helping you will your problem become my problem” is true. But because of this, not helping at all, is not a wise solution. Ofcourse, taking the whole responsibility is the problematic situation. But manager needs to atleast guide the subordiante, needs to show the direction!

But then I dont understand why the author demand to take appointment of manager to solve the problem? Appointed time sounds so formal and this may lead to increase the communication barrier between manger and his team members. This gives more of a heirarchical feeling and also delays the process of solving the problem. Sometimes you are just stuck at one point, and unless you talk with your manager, you can not move ahead.

Why it can not be just open cube policy? Come at any time, if I am not busy, I shall guide you, but you will be the only one who will find the solution to this problem. Why managers can not take such stance?

I would prefer such strategy over what author has mentioned!

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