Monkey bars physics

Kyle is a VP at a large manufacturing firm. His ascent up the organizational food chain has been fast and impressive, and now he’s reaping the financial rewards of all his hard work.

Kyle also works horrific hours, between 90 and 100 hours per week. He doesn’t spent nearly as much time with his family as he’d (or they’d) like. More importantly, he’s got a pile of strategic initiatives and projects as long as his arm that are lying moribund on his desk. He knows they’re important to both his and the company’s future success, but right now they’ve got about as much chance of completion as Transformers 3 does of winning the best picture Oscar. It just ain’t gonna happen.

Kyle’s obviously competent, but he’s being held back by his own proficiency. He’s still doing work that he did earlier in his career because he’s really, really good at it. He’s forgotten the essential physics of monkey bars that he learned on the playground: you can’t move forward until you let go of previous bar.

Kyle is holding onto work that should be — must be — delegated to others. It’s almost certain that it won’t get done the way that he would have done it. And it’s possible that it won’t be done as well as he would have done it. If that’s an issue, then it’s his responsibility to create standard work to ensure that it’s done his way. In any event, he can’t keep doing it. If he’s holding onto those lower value activities, he can’t turn his attention to the bigger picture issues that the company needs him to address.

I often see companies struggle with execution because managers and executives aren’t able to devote the time and attention to the critical initiatives facing their firms. They haven’t internalized the physics of monkey bars. They have to let go before they can move forward.

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  1. Joe Ely says:

    Nice metaphor, Dan…I like it.

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