Public Comment on Managing Management Time

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The Assignment: Read,

Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?

in Harvard Business Review => https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey

Why is it that managers are typically running out of time while their subordinates are typically running out of work? Here we shall explore the meaning of management time as it relates to the interaction between managers and their bosses, their peers, and their subordinates.

Read the article, draft an analysis, get a second reader as your editor, save a copy, then post in the comments section below.

Remember: the Internet is forever, often true, and your brilliant essay will serve as a writing sample for a future employer.

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17 Responses

  1. Jack Yoest says:

    This article is required reading for my classes at The Catholic University of America.

  2. Ana Torres says:

    Time is essential in just about any situation that we face in both the workforce and our personal lives. In the relationship between managers and subordinates, there are several time management situations. It was interesting how they refer to “the monkey” to just about any problem or concern the subordinates may be facing. In an attempt to get help with such, they pass down the monkey to their bosses. The boss’s response to the subordinates will determine whether he/she will take control of the monkeys themselves or not. When taking control of the monkey, the boss now has an additional responsibility that should genuinely not be attributed to them. When the boss takes control of everyone’s monkey and finds himself in a situation where they have no time left to take care of their responsibilities, that is when they will realize the importance of teaching subordinates to take responsibility for the monkeys themselves. Managers should learn to take control of their subordinates by also setting certain expectations from them. Communication is crucial during this stage because subordinates will be clear of how they should address their boss. Rather than coming to them with unsolved problems at random times, they should be made aware of a structured communication process that benefits and respects both their time and their boss’s.

    • Katie Cusumano says:

      You made an interesting point Ana. You mentioned the boss taking control of everyone’s monkey and finding themself in a situation where they have no time left to take care of their own responsibilities. This is an important life lesson that not only teaches them the greatness of teaching the subordinates to take responsibility for the monkeys themselves, but also the bar set for their team. Starting any job with a high bar can only bring more and more success than one with lower standards.

  3. Esmeralda Sevilla says:

    I found this article very interesting. It talks about how sometimes managers find themselves running out of time while their subordinates are running out of work. It explains how managers should avoid carrying their subordinates monkeys on their backs. When managers pick up their subordinates’ monkeys, they accept the subordinates’ problems and responsibility. As a result, the manager will have the responsibility to solve the problem and will have the subordinate pressure to find a solution to the problem. Also If a manager picks up the monkey from the subordinate, it might send a message to their employee telling him that he does not have the skills to care and feed the monkey. As a result, when managers get the monkey, their employees will be waiting for the boss to make the next move. However, if a manager makes the effort of keeping the monkey off their backs, they will find themselves without the burden of carrying with their employees’ problems. They will also help the subordinates by encouraging them and motivating them to find solutions to the problems and to not doubt themselves. This is the right way to operate in an organization because it is more efficient, and the employees will be more productive. When the manager delegates and the monkeys are on the subordinate’s back, the organization will run smoothly. The manager will have enough time to care about the important things that he needs to worry about. So at the end of the article, we learn that it is important to understand and learn the tactics to keep those monkeys off the manager back

  4. Katherine Bojdak says:

    Managers are one of the positions of a company that are face to face with problems from all aspects of the company; the boss, the employees, and the company itself. Managers have to learn how to juggle working on tasks within their very limited time. Managers have three specific periods of time that are delegate for specific things. The first being boss time, working on tasks directly from the boss. The second being system time, tasks from peers and active support. Lastly the self time which is made up of anything the manager themselves agrees to do. The first two are the most important that must be done, so the manger does not have a lot of wiggle room in changing that time. The third is the area where there can be wiggle room but that is mostly based upon managers being able to minimize the subordinate time. The subordinate time is anything time the subordinates take up because of their need of the managers help. In order to minimize the amount of time taken up from this managers need to exercise the five initiatives. The first two being that the subordinates don’t have any initiative. It is very important managers shut that down immediately, in order for managers to minimize subordinate time its crucial that they have initiative. The last three being that the manager work with the subordinates in guiding them and answering questions but leaving the work in their hands. Managers have their own tasks to complete and can not be bogged down in taking on the tasks subordinates don’t know how to do. So, in order for managers to receive the most self time possible they must lead their subordinates to be able to learn and grow on their own without constantly needing the managers help.

  5. Katie Cusumano says:

    The article, “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” spoke on a topic I never realized I was not too familiar with: managing and subordinates time management crunch. I have always perceived the work world quite simply. The manager always has the final say, subordinates are to do as told, and to complete assigned tasks on time. This article went further into depth of the “care and feeding of monkeys.” Before introducing this section of the article that stuck with me strongly, it is important to understand the analogy between the monkey on the back and the process of assigning and controlling work. The monkey symbolizes any bump along the way the subordinate may come across. There were five rules introduced explaining how monkeys should be cared and governed. Rule number four resonated with me the most and was a rule I myself would not have come up with alone. It said that monkeys should be fed face to face or by telephone, but never by mail. I didn’t think that documentation would add to this “feeding process” in a sense that would prolong it as a whole. The biggest take away from the article is to get control over the timing process of what you personally want to take on.

  6. Bryce Moody says:

    To me, this article seems to be principally focused on the assumption of responsibility. Each level of business employment structure, that being every position from the basic secretary to the most valuable executive has to deal with the same common issue of time allocation and task management. In my own experience, there have been numerous times where I have been placed in a situation where my allocation of time needed to be divided by importance and immediacy of responsibility. This is the fundamental principle of time management if there ever was one. The ability to clearly assess your tasks as a subordinate, those placed on you from management, along with typical and expected tasks of your role, is paramount in your ability to progress and gain the trust of those above you. The goal here is for the “monkey” to be passed along as efficiently as possible. In the meantime, it is your responsibility to manage your time and be as effective as possible. I have never found myself “spinning my wheels” as its said. In that case I think you simply aren’t working hard enough. Regardless, the monkeys being passed around will always be sporadic, as is human nature when it comes to competent time management. Your ability to work within the inconsistencies of responsibility as a subordinate will define your success.

  7. Adeline Dygert says:

    Managers do not have time to handle all of their responsibilities and all of their subordinates responsibilities. In the article, it states the problem that managers face is they do not have enough time to accomplish their tasks, while their subordinates are running out of work to do. This problem should not be occurring. Managers should be delegating roles properly so their subordinates have enough work to do. Likewise, subordinates should be able to accomplish their tasks without burdening their boss. Managers need to minimize their subordinate time so they can maximize their self-imposed time which is when they do other tasks that they agreed to do, which is more useful to their time. In order to minimize subordinate time, managers need to encourage and motivate their subordinates to find their own solutions. If managers take too many tasks from their subordinates, the subordinates will become unmotivated and accomplish less work. Once subordinates are encouraged and motivated they will become more productive and have more initiative. They will need the help of their managers less and be able to accomplish more because they have the right mindset. If everyone in an organization does the work that has been assigned to them, it will be a productive organization.

  8. Allie Anderson says:

    I found it interesting that the article was originally published in 1974, and yet is still entirely relevant to many workplace situations. Managers are still running out of time, while subordinates run out of work. The subordinates impose extra time on the managers that the managers don’t really have the space for. The monkey, or issue at hand, is something that is passed back and forth between subordinates and managers. The person with more initiative is the one who typically gets stuck with the monkey, unless the manager gets strategic and delegates the work back to the subordinate. The manager is constantly faced with juggling priorities. I’m glad to have read this article because I am constantly faced with tasks which I have to either take care of on my own or bring to my manager. I’d say I use all five degrees of initiative, varying based on the timeline of the situation. I mostly try to take care of the monkeys by myself, but now my awareness is heightened and I will be extra sure to check before I bring things to my manager’s attention.

  9. Brynn Reese says:

    Oncken’s and Wass’s article on “The Monkey” was very eye-opening and explains a widespread issue of managers not being able to manage their time because they have taken on the tasks of subordinates. This happens for several reasons. For one, there is a general sense in management that if managers are not working around the clock and controlling every aspect of operations, they are failing their subordinates. Another reason is that managers are often approached with issues or questions in which they do not have complete information and therefore must “circle back” with their subordinates, adding to the manager’s to-do list and taking away from real managerial tasks such as ensuring there is enough cash and establishing the visions and goals of the business.
    Managers must not be sweating out the clock while their subordinates have time to play golf. While this may seem uncomfortable to managers, managers must be lazy. They must rely on completed staff work in order to be effective and successful managers. Subordinates need to do the research, work, and analysis of projects and propose them to managers for decision making. Managers should recommend solutions to problems rather than taking on the task themselves and ensure that managers and subordinates agree on the initiative each should take up on projects. This allows managers the change to use their decision-making authority and for subordinates to practice their expertise and problem solving.

  10. One of the many things that a lot of people fail to incorporate into any discussion of business is the concept of time. While businesses require money, manpower, mission, and ideals, all are worth scrap if you haven’t enough time to leave your mark upon the work, or worse, you mismanage time on little things while leaving larger tasks unattended to. Time affects all employees along all levels of the organizational hierarchy, from the corporate bigwigs, to the lowest subordinates. How each of them incorporates time into their schedules is where it gets specific? Is time granted to us by our superiors, acquiesced by out peers and fellow workers, or set aside by our own doing? In the managerial sense, I agree that with time being a major constraint, we must know when to get involved in order to speed things up, but also when to step back, in order to let employees, feel independent and be able to complete the work tasked to them. Overall, in order to balance time with content, we need to establish what is necessary in order to keep the organization running, and devote other resources into seeing that those goals are completed efficiently.

  11. Austin Kane says:

    Time management will always be one of the most important, yet difficult things to figure out when in college, and in a career. In regards to a manager and his or her subordinates, time management is key when trying to delegate work efficiently. However, this relationship between managers and their employees suffers from problems regarding time management. Throughout the article, it is made clear that managers seem to run out of time and their subordinates seem to run out of work to complete. This is because managers like to take on their employee’s “moneys” which are problems they do not know how to handle. When managers take on too many of these, they run out of personal time to work on their own work they need to have finished. Therefore, managers need to learn how to balance this correctly and only take on the problems they NEED to figure out for their subordinates. They need to have more confidence in handling some of those problems so their bosses are not overwhelmed with the work they have.

  12. Savannah Jackson says:

    I thought the article “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” was extremely interesting. The analogy of the monkey on the back was an interesting way of explaining how a manager should spend his time and delegate to his employees. The monkey represents a problem that a subordinate encounters. The most surprising thing to me was that, just in the article, there are 4 ways that the manager ended up with the monkey on his back but there was only one way to keep the monkey on the subordinates back. Each time the author went through a different scenario with the three subordinates, I kept thinking, “Surely this will work” but quickly figured out that the monkey would end up right back on the back of the manager. Only when the manager took the approach of setting the monkey on the table, explaining that he will not take the monkey on his back but will instead help and guide, was he able to have time to complete the more important work and have time for himself. Time management and delegation is truly a learned skill and that is made very clear through this article but a manager can learn how to do these things, and do them well, then both him and his subordinates will feel content in their job and, for the most part, stress free.

  13. Clare Wagner says:

    I love this article on managing management time. The three kinds of management time, boss imposed, system imposed, and self-imposed, thoroughly describe what it is to manage time. In my own experience in a management position, I did notice that I often ran out of time. Instead of being able to delegate as well as I could, I took on a lot of the tasks because I knew that I could complete them. Boss imposed time is needed to accomplish activities and goals the higher up management requires I need to be done correctly and then the fastest amount of time. System imposed time, are things needed to be done in order to complete the job. Lastly, self-imposed time is things that a manager agrees to do. Part of this is discussing work with the subordinates. The other part of self-imposed time is discretionary which is when the manager is doing their own work. I love that Oncken When’s his article with the quote, “Get control over the timing and content of what you do”. It is not simply about getting out of the office on time or staying in the office so long that time Blends together, but rather the time is properly managed.

  14. Tom Ryan says:

    Managers have one of the most important jobs within the company because they not only have to manage their time, but they have to manage the boss’s the employees and the company’s time as well. These managers have to use time management or else they will fall behind and find themselves trying to play catch up. They have a total three sections of work they have to allot time to and if they are able to do all three in a timely fashion then they will be able to make the company more profitable. The first section is the boss’s work they have to do. This comes directly from the boss of the company and they have to be able to prioritize the tasks given by the boss. The second one is system tasks that are issued by peers and should be few thought the day these are important and should be prioritized over others but if it interferes with a task that the boss gives you then that should take precedent. The third is managers time and this are the managers tasks that should be already ingrained into the work schedule. If the managers are able to do all three effectively they will be successful at their position.

  15. Kevin Jezard says:

    This famous Harvard Business Review publication goes over the manager subordinate relationship. There is a common conversation had between the manager and the subordinate when the subordinate is stuck on a problem. How the manager responds to this will decide who takes on the “monkey” after the conversation. Managers can decide how much control over the situation they want based on the severity of the situation and their trust in the subordinate. The manager also has to account for his own obligations and the obligations of others he manages, as to not show favoritism or take on too much work. Managers however need to consider why they care keeping the subordinate on if they are bringing too many monkeys on to them. Managers are meant to show subordinates the correct way of doing objectives, rather than just taking on things the subordinate is unable to do. This article reminds me of the importance of the managers ability to let subordinates learn and do things on their own. Allowing your self to take on monkeys is not proper managerial leadership and does not make them any better employees. Even if they fail, at least they can learn from these mistakes and be better for them. Managers can then note what they could have done better to help the next subordinate take on the next monkey that is brought to the manager.

  16. Liam Patrick O'Sullivan says:

    I found this article to be incredibly fascinating, but also something that is seemingly mundane. Only ever being an employee, time just kind of took care of itself as I carried on with my job. I never thought about the difficult task of managing not only your time, but also the time of many employees. You must not only manage their time, but also make sure that their assigned work is also done on time. I think the analogy of the monkey refers to give the employee a certain degree of agency. To avoid small problems is advantageous to the company because it saves the managers time. The problem is that if the employees have no agency, and the manager gets caught up on a small issue that could/should have been handled by a subordinate, that means that all the employees will be waiting for the manager because they dont know what to do without being told.

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