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

Rule 6

Rule Number 6 in the care and feeding of monkeys goes this way:  

Memoranda and reports running to several pages or more must be covered by summaries of one page or less to facilitate instant dialogue.

But you're also, some of you, going to face a large heavy report that the author spent three months working on. It's impossible to dialogue a thing like that. What do you do, therefore? My suggestion is to call the person up, hand back the report and ask, "When will you be back with a one-page summary of this?" He or she will probably say, "Boss, a thing like this can't be reduced to one page, it's impossible." Agree and say "Of course. Therefore to make it easy for you, I'll tell you ahead of time; I'll accept any­thing you bring that even purports to being a one-page summary."  

The subordinate comes back with that one-page summary clipped on top of the thirty-five page report. You take the one-page summary and toss the report back. You look at the first sentence on that summary and you don't understand it. Your subordinate says, "That's exactly what I told you. This can't be done. That first sentence summarises the first nineteen pages in that report, and you can never understand that sentence un­less you've read the first nineteen pages." So you say, "You've got the report. Read me the first nineteen pages." Your subordinate says, "Don't be silly. I don't have to read those nine­teen pages to you. I wrote them! I could tell you what's in those pages in one-fifth the time it would take me to read them to you."

After an hour, you'll have a more valid, thorough understanding of what that report is about than you ever would if you sat in the quietude of your den and struggled through unfamiliar material all by yourself. When you've got the author, who needs to spend time in the library?  

The real world of management is inhabited by thousands of monkeys. Each monkey belongs to someone, and as you know, the person who has the monkey has the next move. You'll find it helpful to keep the six monkey feeding rules in mind when you have to handle monkeys.

The End.

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