Geek Igor

Who's Got the Monkey?

27 Jun 2018

Classic advice on time management.

A colleague of mine (thanks Stu!) recently recommended me a classic article Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? It is classic indeed — published in 1974 . Some of the wording is in need of modernizing (e.g. the boss-subordinate hierarchy changed into much more flat organizations), but I think it aged quite well. I’ve enjoyed it and I recommend it to you, my reader :)

Here are my notes if you want to skim the article quickly.

Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?

Source

https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey

Your time

What are the components of your time?

  1. Boss-imposed time
  2. System-imposed time
  3. Subordinate-imposed time (or colleague-imposed if you read it after y2k).
  4. Discretionary time

Goal:

Examples

Now the ball is in your court, you’re blocking your colleague plus you have more work to do. (3) grows.

What’s the deal with the monkey then?

Monkey is the problem:

Who’s the boss?

Solution

Get rid of a monkey

Initiative

The real goal here is to transfer the initiative to your colleagues.

Five degrees of initiative:

  1. Wait until told.
  2. Ask what to do.
  3. Recommend, then take the resulting action.
  4. Act, and report at once.
  5. Act on your own, and routinely report.

Rules of engagement:

  1. Monkey needs be fed or shoot => decide immediately if we want to do something with the problem (even if at a later date) or not.
  2. Keep the monkey population below the breaking point => kanban style, put a limit on WIP items.
  3. Your colleague’s problem can’t become your problem:
    • Work on a monkey during an assigned time slot,
    • After the meeting it is still your colleague’s problem,
    • If there is an action item on you, you folks collectively decide it during the meeting.
  4. Each monkey should have an assigned next feeding time. Otherwise it will starve or wind up on your back.

Summary