Henry Ford once said, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.” It reminded me of an article I read about twenty years ago called “Who’s got the monkey?” penned by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald Wass.
In essence, the article is designed to help managers budget their time.* The authors called the delegation of an assignment – the monkey. The manager has passed along the oversight of this task to a member of his or her team. Yet, what often happens the team member will get stumped and bring the problem back and place the monkey on the manager’s shoulders.
The only result of this process is the manager becomes a bottleneck and nothing gets done, as the manager lacks the time. The manager also gets frustrated and stressed. The key theme of this article is for the manager to not accept the monkey back, unless one condition has been met. The monkey comes back with a couple of ideas to solve the impasse. Rather than bringing an unsolved problem back, the subordinate brings a solvable problem that just needs an OK.
So, if a team member just hands the problem back, the manager should not accept the monkey and ask that he or she work through a couple of paths forward. So, Henry Ford quote is very relevant, in my view. The article can be linked to below.
*Note: Management is hard work and often it does not get done as well as it should due to busy schedules or unfamiliarity with what is needed. One of the best pieces of advice came from a staff member of a very busy manager. She helped the manager manage her by making the best use of his time. She asked if she could set-up a fifteen briefing with him a couple of times a week to ask him questions and tell him where she is on various projects. The manager loved the focused time. It was her way of managing up.