Soon after the One Minute Manager was published, it became one of the best-selling business books of all time, and it remains one of the most popular business books until this day. Ken Blanchard, one of the co-authors, then partnered with other business experts to write other books using the parable-style format of the One Minute Manager. Blanchard partnered with William Onchen to write the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. Onchen was an expert on management time, and had authored his own book entitled Managing Management Time. Together, Blanchard and Onchen collaborated to write about how managers could be more effective if they learned the art of delegation and supervision of routine tasks.
The story they tell is about a struggling manager who never seems to have enough time while his people always do. When he finally was so frustrated that he couldn’t take it anymore, he met with the One Minute Manager who could help him with his problem. The One Minute Manager helped him to realize that he was inadvertently taking on work that his people should have been doing and it was piling up on his desk. His “ah-ha” moment came when he realized that when his people came to him with an issue or a problem, he needed to redirect them back with the problem to solve it themselves, ie, let them keep the “Monkey.” A Monkey is defined as the next move. So long as he could prevent “Monkeys” from jumping from someone else’s back on to his, then he would have more control over his own time. He could then focus on only those things that only he could do and have the time to do it too. Here are Onchen’s Rules for Monkey management as described in this book:
1. Describe the Monkey: When someone comes to you with a problem, then the task is to keep on talking until the next move has been specifically identified.
2. Assign the Monkey: Assign the Monkey (next move) to the lowest level that can handle the problem which in most cases is the individual who came to you with the problem. Be careful not to inadvertently set up a following move such as “write me a memo” which will then require you to read it and react to it after it is sent to you. So, a better move is to send your employee off with instructions to come back to you with three alternative solutions so you can discuss this again and pick one together for the employee to implement.
3. Insure the Monkey: Decide what level of risk you are willing to accept to have the employee act immediately to solve the problem. Generally, you can send them off with one of two levels of insurance: 1) recommend and then act or 2) act and then advise. Depending on the employee’s experience and the nature of the task, choose an insurance level that matches the employee’s ability to solve the problem on their own and your own willingness to accept the consequences if things don’t get done right. If you have any concerns about the employee’s ability to act first, then have them simply recommend a solution before they can proceed. Otherwise, you can agree on a solution and just send them off to immediately take action and report back later.
4. Check the Monkey: Set an appointment for a follow-up meeting to find out how it is going with your employee. If you have assigned them the responsibility for the next move, rather than having your employees ask you “How’s it going?” while you are dealing with their Monkeys, then you can be the one to ask them “How’s it going?”
Using these simple rules will help you to gain more control over you own time. Rather than working on every problem in your office, you will have your employees doing most of the work while you check in periodically to ask “How’s it going?” You can then use your time to not only follow-up with your people, but to focus on only those problems that require your attention because you are the only one with the authority or resources to fix them. Also, be mindful that Monkeys can not only jump up from your employees, but downward from your boss or sideways from a peer. At times you will need to take responsibility for the next moves on some of these downward or sideways leaping Monkeys; however, if you have a good discussion with your boss or colleague, many times they will still have the “next move” when you finish talking about it. Following Onchen’s Rules will not only help you manage your “management time” better, but will also help to make your people stronger as you coach them to solve most of their problems themselves. Additionally, they will find their work more rewarding and less frustrating as they are empowered by you to do the work themselves and not wait on you to do it for them.
Similar to the One Minute Manager book, this book is a quick read with some simple, but powerful lessons. If you find yourself in the same position as the struggling manager in this story, then this is the book for you. You can read it in one sitting, and if you experience the same “ah-ha” moment as this manager, then you can apply these four rules the next day at work. In a matter of a few meetings, then you can be on your way to becoming a “One Minute Manager” too.