Is the monkey on procurement’s back? 
 
Perhaps one of the best-ever articles about time management and the politics of power. "Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey?" by William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass, debuted in Harvard Business Review in 1974 and was reprinted in the Dec 1999 issue with new commentary by Stephen R. Covey (educator & author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). 
 
The article explains with clarity and wit how managers can avoid becoming walking dust collectors for their subordinates' problems. Many managers feel overwhelmed. They have too many problems, “too many monkeys on their backs”. They say that all too often they find themselves running out of time while their subordinates are running out of work. Such is the common phenomenon described by the late William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass in this 1974 HBR classic. They tell the engaging story of an overburdened manager who has unwittingly taken on all his subordinates' problems. If, for example, an employee has a problem and the manager says, "Let me think about that and get back to you," the monkey has just leapt from the subordinate's back to the manager's. 
 
During my career I have held various roles within Procurement & Supply Chain departments as a subordinate, manager then director and I would often reference the article I once read in the context of a manager and subordinate but never as a department. Procurement have many internal customers such as design, operations, manufacturing, facilities management, packing, dispatch, logistics, accounts and many other indirect/direct requirements, so as a department must we accept that the Monkey is always on Procurement's back. 
 
There are many ways that Procurement can pick up other people's Monkeys: 
1. Damaged, lost or faulty products on a production line that need immediate replacement to meet customer ship dates. 
2. Last minute changes to shipping methods meaning a change in pallet/crate needs needing immediate attention. 
3. Trying to get a new product ready for a show, with continual tweaks to the design, giving Procurement less than lead time to get items sourced. 
4. Unsustainable suppliers found by other departments, who subsequently aren't able to provide production volumes 
 
But do you know - as Procurement people we manage it. We take on board other people's Monkeys and make things happen. Every day is different, with different challenges, different opportunities - in fact, different monkeys. And that's what makes Procurement such a great career choice. 
 
Further reading of the Harvard Business Review article 
 
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