“The art of monkey management is to help your staff manage their own monkeys by not actually taking them on yourself.”

Do you ever feel that you’ve spent the entire day sorting out other people’s problems?

The monkey-loving manager becomes so busy “helping” their staff that they no longer have any time left for their staff – ironically the people they were trying to help in the first place!

Don’t sacrifice your own performance by taking on employee burdens. Understanding the metaphor and learning the tactics of monkey management to keep those monkeys off your back is essential to make sure that the right person retains responsibility for the task.

In 1974, William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass wrote ‘Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?’ for the Harvard Business Review, and the report remains the second-most popular reprint in HBR’s history.

The monkey is identified as other people’s problems, challenges and issues that somehow get passed to and inadvertently get accepted by the managers. To this end, the manager is carrying the burden of keeping the monkeys alive, well fed and swinging freely in the trees.

In their report, Oncken Jr. and Wass laid out their five rules for the Care and Feeding of Monkeys:

Rule 1: Monkeys should be fed or shot

Rule 2: The monkey population should be kept under control

Rule 3: Monkeys should be fed by appointment only

Rule 4: Monkeys should be fed face to face or by telephone, but never by mail

Rule 5: Every monkey should have an assigned feeding time

Limit the Monkeys

The monkey population must be kept below the maximum number the manager has time to feed. Staff members will find time to work as many monkeys as the manager finds time to feed, but no more.

Essentially, when you run out of time for feeding monkeys, your staff members run out of time for working them!

Foster a culture where team members become independent and take the initiative – try Monkey Management!

BC Training’s half day course will look at management strategies and will help delegates ensure that:

  • the right things get done
  • the right way
  • by the right people
  • in the right time frame

“Get control over the timing and content of what you do,” conclude Oncken and Wass. “The result of all this is that the manager will increase his leverage, which will in turn enable him to multiply, without theoretical limit, the value of each hour that he spends in managing management time.”