Can you answer yes to any of the following questions?
1. Does your company tends to write a plan every year but mostly it is put in a binder to gather dust? Maybe you don’t even do planning because “what’s the point?”
2. Do you spend too much of your time fighting fires, eliminating emergencies and chasing “what if’s”?
3. Can you quickly explain your current business strategy and how it fits with your company’s vision? Your 3-yr strategy? Your marketplace position?
4. Can you show your current program performance measures and make the appropriate mid-stream corrections?
5. Do you have to go through more than one layer of management to get a decision made about any program – even one that has already been given a green light?
6. How many times each year do you have to justify your budget? More than during the annual budgeting process? Do you have to “give back” part of your budget throughout your fiscal year? Is your budget a real budget or based on the “give back” principle?
Answer yes to these questions and you can include your company among the multitudes who suffer from “Management from the Monkey Bridge.”
A “ Monkey Bridge” is a naval/nautical term that defines a high, narrow platform above a deck or in an engine room. (Or rope bridge, as in the illustration.) People who are on or manage from the “Monkey Bridge” can only see vague strokes of the work being done, can’t hear the on-going communication between those in the know, don’t have a full view of the current environment outside the room and can’t make good decisions on whether they are navigating toward their destination. There are very few tools with which to manage from this vista. And just like the old adage says…if all you have are hammers, everything is a nail!
Only by leaving the management of the individual elements to those on the floor can a leader return to the bridge and set the course for the business. In other words, Senior Managers need to set the course, provide the wherewithal (training, tools, resources) for the subject matter experts to manage to this course, provide the vision, energy and motivation to keep all the processes working together, trust his staff to do the jobs they are trained to do and track on-going performance (individual, group and business) to make necessary adjustments so that the ultimate destination is successfully attained.
There will be the unexpected battle that must be fought – destinations changed, resources removed. But when all the engines are already working and the ship is moving efficiently and effectively toward a goal, shifting to manage an unexpected barrier – with either short-term or long-term impact – will be more successful with everyone understanding the plan, their role, their job, their resources and, most importantly, the vision from the captain’s chair.
Helping an organization’s management move away from “Monkey Bridge” management is not easy but will always add energy, productivity and profit once it is done.