Subordinate imposed time was first publicised as a concept in the article "Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey?" published in 1974 by William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass. Here we expand upon the basic theme and try to up-date it.
The idea at the core of subordinate imposed time is that employees possess an inclination to pass all issues on to the manager to deal with when they should in fact be handling them themselves. The manager then informs the employee of what he or she is going to do to sort it out and the member of staff awaits the actions of their manager before the next step is taken. Here, in theory at least, the roles have reversed. The employee gives the line manager problems to resolve and the manager reports to the staff member on any progress made.
The trick as manager is then to stop these so called "monkeys" from being passed onto his / her back and re-establish the natural order of things. The critical point in the article is the first interaction between the line manager and employee. When told "We have got a problem!" the line manager should reply, "No, you've got a problem. However, I'll do my best to help you with your problem but at no point will your problem become my problem!"
Things, unfortunately, aren't always as simple as that. Lots of managers seem all too eager to deal with issues that their staff should be dealing with. These types of managers prefer to oversee every little thing and they clearly don't trust their own workers to get the job done. This type of managing is seriously flawed as it begs the question "what do you need employees for if you plan on doing everything yourself?"
There is also the problem of professional development, better-known as training. Untrained staff members are not going to be able to deal with problems. So get them trained! Again, what's the purpose of them being there if they're not going to be shown the right way to deal with issues? Employees can and generally will hide behind an inability to do simple duties as a way of avoiding having to accept responsibilities and it really is down to the manager to make certain this doesn't take place.
Providing the manager is buying into the approach and needs to reduce his or her subordinate imposed time then the next step is to make sure the employees take up this concept. Different kinds of employees behave in different ways. Some will benefit from the independence and thrive on the new responsibilities while others will find the transition difficult and try to keep on transferring those apes back onto their manager.
Particular types of employee will attempt to spend as much time as possible doing as little as possible. It isn't simply a case of laziness. They generally feel they want a job where they can have as little responsibility as possible but responsibilities are out there and they will need to fall somewhere. It's the job of the manager to ensure that they take on the responsibilities that are suitable for them. If they work in a customer centered environment then they'll have to cope with customer issues (it genuinely is as straightforward as that). It is worth noting here that the idea that they will only deal with the satisfied customers whilst the manager deals with the unhappy ones is simply not true.
The key element to understanding subordinate imposed time is to understand that employees are paid to solve problems and not to transfer them onto the line manager. Feel free to help them and instruct them but you must not permit their issues to become your issues.