For The Monkeys

I’m recently retired (for four days, more on that soon) – so I’m in the process of making sure I have a backup of all my email. Why? I don’t know, I’ve lived so much of the last 10 years of my working life in email, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

What is fun about it is finding things that long ago I forgot that I said. There’s a whole lot that never should see the light of day, but some of them–with a little tweaking–deserve a public airing, particularly if they involve monkeys.

My (now former) boss, Kevin Gamble has an oft-repeated mantra of what you can do with the organization issues – the metaphorical “monkeys on your back”.

You can:

  • Avoid the monkey/leave it with the current caretaker
  • Starve the monkey
  • Take the monkey and feed and care for it

This came up about four years ago, about some issue or another. It could be just about any issue that an organization would face when there’s a monkey on your back.

In response, I then proceeded to pontificate about the monkey

Well, given my personality is such that when I see a monkey in the room, particularly if the monkey appears to be neglected is to go:

“Hey there’s a monkey in the room.”

Although, I don’t usually stop there, I proceed to describe how the monkey looks, and talk about the monkey’s lineage, and relate stories about all the monkeys that I’ve known before…, but I digress

But I tend to feel that ignoring there’s a monkey in the room, particularly a neglected monkey, is wrong. I especially feel that it is a failure of higher education in general, that when someone, in whatever particular mode of expression that they use, will point out there’s a monkey in room, that leadership tends to collectively ignore not only the monkey, but the person that pointed out the monkey.

That’s not to say that every time that someone says they see a monkey, that it’s really a monkey. Good leadership knows the difference between live monkeys, stuffed monkeys, and mice dressed up as monkeys. But ignoring the person that thought they saw a monkey, by not at least saying “thanks, but it’s really not a monkey, here’s what it is”. But no, the monkey reporter is ignored. Unless the monkey reporter is someone on an advisory board or booster club or whatever. Then all monkeys, stuffed, live, and impersonated are all treated as monkeys.

Others, in their own way, have pointed out that there is a monkey in the room. Admittedly, that expression comes across as “Why isn’t that monkey dancing? Please put a uniform on that monkey and make it dance. Now.” While it isn’t really the best way of expressing that there’s a monkey in the room, my sincere wish is that leaders will go: “You know, that’s a great point, there’s a monkey there, and while it really isn’t a dancing monkey, what is the course of action for the monkey?” Putting a monkey in time-out is fine, but ignoring it is not. At least I don’t think it is.

Maybe there’s no educational organization anywhere that does this. But one could hope that somehow, someway, somewhere they will do this.

If not for us, then for the monkeys.

“If not for us, then for the monkeys” is my new catch phrase. I haven’t had a catch phrase in a long time. And given a catch phrase, there’s no telling how far I’ll take it (well, in that case, I got pretty lazy and stopped there, which is to say “not very far”).