Friday, July 21, 2006

The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey

If you feel you're doing the work of two people, tell your boss who they are and see to it he fires one of them.

Your job as a manager is to prepare your people under you so that you can delegate to them.

The only way to develop responsibility in people is to give them responsibility.

Indispensible managers can be harmful, not valuable, especially when they impede the work of others.

Individuals who think they are irreplaceable because they are indispensable tend to get replaced because of the harm they cause. Moreover, higher management cannot risk promoting people who are indispensable in their current jobs because they have not trained a successor.

Learning time-management, taking seminars only solve the symptoms of a problem not the root cause.

The problem is: monkeys.

A monkey is the next move.

A lot of times, a busy manager is busy because he is doing the staff's work! "Let me think about." "I'll get back to you on this." These statements remove responsibility for a task from a subordinate and places it on your shoulders!

One reason could be because of a "white knight" syndrome or a "do-gooder" syndrome where you think you are "helping your staff" or that you are the only one capable of "making important decisions".

Look at your job descriptions and decide whether it is yours or your staff's responsibility.

The more you take responsibility from others, the more they become dependent on you.

Learn to delegate monkeys properly.

For every monkey there are two parties involved: one to work it and one to supervise it.

When you assign people their monkeys, they are empowered to solve it.

Things not worth doing are not worth doing well. Some monkeys deserve to die. Ask yourself, why are you doing this?

Never let the company go down the drain simply for the sake of practicing good management.


Rule 1:Describe the Monkey: The dialogue between the boss and subordinate must not end until appropriate "next moves" have been identified and specified.


When people realize that any dialogue will not end till next moves are specified, they will plan carefully when approaching you.

Next, it biases any situation toward action!

Finally, it gives you motivation by clarifying the situation, identifying the first step, and breaking it into bite-size pieces.

One person can won the project and another person can make the "next move".

Rule 2: Assign the Monkey: All monkeys shall be owned and handled at the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare.

All monkeys must be handled at the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare!

Staff have more time, energy and knowledge to handle monkeys.

Staff are closer to the work and are in better position to handle the monkey.

Keeping monkeys off your back is the only way to gain discretionary time.

Retain monkeys only you can handle.

Rule 3:

Insure the Monkey: Every monkey leaving your presence on the back of one of your people must be covered by one of two insurance policies:

  1. Recommend, Then Act

  2. Act, Then Advise

This balances your staffs need for freedom and your ability to control.

Level 1 is when there is a risk of an unaffordable mistake.

Level 2 is when you're sure that your staff can handle it on their own and inform you afterwards.

Aim to: Practice hands-off management as much as possible and hands-on management as much as necessary.

Rule 4:Check on the monkey: Proper follow-up means healthier monkeys. Every monkey should have a checkup appointment.

Checkups are to find opportunities to praise your staff.

As well as to make sure you monkeys are healthy and to take corrective action if necessary.

Minimize the number of scheduled checkups by scheduling as far as possible without interim checkups but either of you are free to check on each other if the need arises.

Staff should inform you when monkeys are sick. Don't wait till they are critically ill before being brought to you.

During checkups, even if nothing was done, still go ahead with the checkup to discuss why nothing was done.

The purpose of Oncken's rules are to make sure the right things get done the right way at the right time by the right people.

Delegation is not assigning. Assigning involves a single monkey; delegation involves a family of monkeys.

The purpose of coaching is to get into the position to delegate.

To get into the position of delegation:

I cannot delegate until my anxieties allow it. Be convinced that your subordinate can do it. If not use insurance policy 1: recommend, then act; or work with him not for him.

I can delegate if I am reasonably sure my people know what is to be done.

It would be foolish to delegate to someone without reasonable assurance that he or she can get sufficient resources--time, information, money, people, assistance, and authority--to do the work.

I cannot turn control of any project over to anyone until I am confident that the cost and timing and quantity and quality of the project will be acceptable.

The more commitment the greater the chance of success.

Working in an organization means time devoted for the boss, time for the system (administrative), and time for your subordinates. What is left over is discretionary time.

Discretionary time is the most important to an organization, because from it flows ideas and creativity that make a company better and improve itself. It is the Quadrant II time for yourself important but not urgent. Create more discretionary time for yourself, to help yourself and the company. Use it wisely.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Something Learned

After revising most of the One-Minute Manager series of books that I read like 15 years ago and taking my Project Management course, I realized this: That I've been learning management skills from untrained managers for most of my working life! (A lot of management skills and habits I learnt were actually bad habits.) And this makes me the bigger idiot!

(To digress, this shows why Maxwell's law of reproduction works. Work for great leaders, you learn their good habits and behaviour. Work for idiots, you learn their bad habits and behaviour. Therefore you have to make a conscious effort not to copy bad habits if you happen to work for one.)

The reason is that management is an entirely new skill altogether. Just because a person is good at doing his work, doesn't mean he is a good manager.

Unfortunately, the current world corporate and training environment doesn't teach or prepare people to be managers. It is a people skill. Programming or teaching are individual skills. But managing is the skill at handling people. It is getting things done through other people.

We teach technical skils in school. We teach business policies or systems. But do we teach people to learn how to build rapport? To be decisive? To be humble? To be understanding? To be wise? Is there a course for this in school?

If communication skills are 90% of a manager's work, why isn't stressed? Of course, the technical and hard skills are important.

In light of this, and since it is difficult for a single person to change a system I come to this conclusion: Learn the hard skills, the accounting, the finance, the programming, the organizational and systems training in school.

But make sure you develop your leadership, communication and soft skills. These are far more important in life, if it means 80% of your succes depends on this then make it your priority. You can always delegate accounting, programming, and secretarial work to far more competent people. But you cannot delegate responsibility and leadership.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

There Must Be The Possibility of Failure

I'm taking one course every year to improve myself. Last year, I took a Diploma in Enterprise Development, basically an entreprenuership training course.

This year, I'm taking the Project Management Professional as well as salsa lessons.

I'm contemplating taking a course in Literature as well and taking an exam on it to motivate myself. This is to improve my story-telling skills and depth of acting ability.

Having an exam really motivates you.

In fact, there must be the real possibility of failure.

I've taken "sure-pass" courses before. And there just isn't the motivation in it to spur you on to pass and excel. One, because it doesn't make the course or exam serious enough. Secondly, an exam gives you a measure of how well you have done in your understanding and depth of knowledge.

True, an exam isn't perfect. Exams are actually very imperfect measures of knowledge. Warren Buffett for example, when he was temporary CEO of Salomon Brothers dreaded taking a compulsory exam for head of brokerage/financial firms. He kept putting it off until he could step-down. An exam could never do justice to measure the financial genius of the world's greatest investor.

There could never be an exam to measure entrepeneurial genius like Bill Gates or story-telling talent like Steven Spielberg. Their exams are the world stage, and the examiners are the public. And they too fail; Spielberg with Amistad, Empire of the Sun; Gates with Traf-O-Data and Windows 1.0.

What I'm trying to put across is that failure is actually something to be embraced, it is a good thing, it validates and gives value to our achievements, it spurs us on and provides feedback on where we have gone wrong.

Failure is just a stepping stone, it is just an event and likewise, so is success. Success too is for a moment. As Rudyard Kipling said, to paraphrase: Failure is an imposter, and so is success. It is the struggle and the development of ourselves that is far more important, though I must stress that if we are not achieving success, then something is wrong, perhaps our methods or our processes or focus or strategy. (Of course, you must then ask "What is success?" which is also a grand philosophical question.)

Life is an Exam

Each day is an exam.

Each day is a test.

If we fail to pass, we have to retake the test another day.

We cannot progress unless we learn the lesson of the day.