The Art of Delegating – don’t take the monkey!

What Precisely Is a Monkey?

"A monkey is whatever the next move is when dialogue between two parties breaks off." Whenever during working hours, two people, superior and subordinate, are in conversation, at the point where the conversation breaks off, there is always a "next move." But it's almost al­ways an elusive one, so you want to watch it. For example, in a recent meeting George said, "Boss, we have a problem." We discussed it, and after a half an hour I said, "George, I've got to be on my way. I don't have any more time. This matter is going to require a decision. I'm going to have to give the matter further thought. Now, therefore, let me think it over, and I'll tell you what to do." What was the "next move" at the termination point of that conversation? It was very abstract, very intangible, elusive. What was it? Further thought! That was the next move! Then when I said, "Let me think it over, and I'll let you know," the monkey leaped from his back to mine. When I walked away, I had it. What's George going to do now? He's going to pester me. "Boss, how's it coming? You've got to fish or cut bait! Time's a-wasting!" He's now trying to regain control of what he's just lost. He's crippled, and I've got an extra monkey I didn't know I was going to have when I came to work this morning. So we're both badly off. These things leap all over the place as surreptitiously as you can imagine. To say nothing of over the telephone!  

Twin Roles

Let's now take this second statement. It says; "For every monkey there are two parties involved: one to work it and the other to supervise it." (Always two!) Now let’s see how that works out: I'm going to play this over again, but this time the way it ought to be played by a professional. Leo, as before, stops me in the hallway and says, "Boss, we've got a problem." We discuss it for thirty minutes, and I say to him, "Leo, I haven't got any more time. We've got to get a decision on this thing. But it is going to require further thought. Now, Leo, I can only think of two people in this company who might conceivably give this matter the required further thought: you and me. Now, therefore, by virtue of the power of the Golden Rule vested in me, you will give this matter the required further thought. Be in my office at four-thirty this afternoon with your further thoughts wrapped in merchandisable form taking into full account my buying habits." Now when he leaves, who has the monkey? He has. Who has the "worker" role? He has. Who has the "supervisory" role? I have. And that's why this afternoon I'll walk by his office and say, "Hi, Leo. About that monkey: how’s it coming?" ("How's it coming?" is a technical term that identifies which of us has the "supervisory" role, just in case he loses track!)
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