Have you ever heard the phrase “Who’s got the Monkey?” as a principle in business related to time management?
The Harvard Business Review published an article on this topic, many years ago, which it boasts as one of its two most popular reprints ever. You can view this VERY GOOD article by clicking here.
In a nutshell, it discusses the topic of ownership of tasks or issues, and how/where that ownership should be placed, as relates to time management.
Let’s take this concept to a very generic place, which can also apply to our personal lives.
Each one of us is a customer as well as a service-provider to someone else.
Another, much better way of saying this is: we are in an endless number of reciprocal (a.k.a. give and take) relationships. This includes, with our: spouse, siblings, parents, children, neighbors, fellow church goers, co-workers in the company in which we are employed as well as customers or vendors of that same company.
Bottom-line: Never make the “customer”, in a given scenario, chase you for something that is YOUR responsibility. Said another way, keep that monkey (the issue or task) on your back until and/or unless the other person can do something for, or with you, to close it out.
Example: If I were to send an email asking someone to do something for me, there are really “up to” 3 expected responses:
- A confirmation that the thing being asked can or cannot be done (at all, or in the timeframe requested).
- Any questions needing to be answered to clarify the request (if applicable).
- A confirmation that it was done!
We ALL receive requests for our time. We must acknowledge, however, that simply responding to that person to tell them we’ll get to it “as requested” isn’t enough. Far from it!
Because, if we don’t subsequently follow-up to let the requestor know that it was done, then as far as the requestor is concerned – IT IS NOT DONE. They then must follow-up with us to find out the status, if it is not obviously clear. And/or to make sure that what “might be” obviously clear, is clearly completed or if it still remains in progress.
In this example, we have:
- Placed the monkey, which we own, on the back of the other person – where it does NOT belong.
- Wasted their time – It doesn’t matter if it was merely seconds, minutes or hours.
- Created for ourselves an image of an amateur, in the eyes of our “customer.”
I HATE monkeys on my back, when they are not mine! I mean, why should I care for and feed someone else’s pet?
Another example: I was commenting to one of my son’s about the situation being experienced with the service provider mentioned in the prior post (Email and the use of Crayons)…I had been receiving a bunch of emails that were literally meaningless: I couldn’t tell if I had to do something, what to expect, when and if the problem was EVER going to be solved. And, I was repeatedly asked the same question which I had already answered.
I said to my son: I REALLY only want them to tell me the problem is resolved – NOW! I should NOT have to chase them for resolution or crisp, clear updates.
Oh, how close they came to losing my business 🙂
In closing, do you want to be viewed as a highly competent professional, in all things?
We, the person responsible for fulfilling requests of our “customer”, must maintain full ownership of all aspects of the request (communications, etc.) to ensure complete, clear and accurate understanding of status, through closure.
Thus, instilling confidence in others that we can be counted on.
Anything less and we are viewed as an amateur, who is treated (and paid) accordingly.
All the best!