Thursday, July 16, 2009

Most famous story on time management

As possibly the most famous story on time management goes, a young management consultant by the name of Ivy Lee told the president of the Bethlehem Steel, Charles M. Schwab, that with his company's services, Schwab and his executives would know how to manage better. Schwab told Lee what they needed was not more knowing but more doing. He threw down the gauntlet and told Lee that if he could show him away to help them do the things they already know they ought to do, he would pay any fee that Lee wanted.

Lee told him that in 20 minutes he could give Schwab a method that would increase his company's effectiveness by at least 50%.

Pretty bold claim, I'd say.

So he gave Schwab a sheet of paper and told him to write down the six most important things he had to do the next day. Schwab wrote them down. Then Lee told him to number them in order of importance. Schwab numbered them.

Lee then told him to pull out the sheet at the beginning of the workday and start working on item 1. He was to look at that sheet every 15 minutes and look at the item that he was supposed to be currently working on. Lee told him not to be concerned if he didn't finish all the items on the list that day, only that he worked on the most important item. He told him if this method didn't work, nothing would.

Lee finished up by telling Schwab to take the last five minutes of every working day to make out a new "must do" list for the next day's tasks.

Once he was convinced that the method was sound, he was to tell his men about it. He said to try out the method as long as he wished and to send him a check for whatever Schwab thought it was worth.

Just a 20 minute conversation.

Just one piece of advice...

Two weeks later, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 (worth more than $400,000 in today's dollars). He added a note with the check saying that it was the most profitable business lesson he had ever learned. Over time, following this silly little method, Schwab turned Bethlehem Steel into the biggest independent steel producer in the world and created a personal fortune of $100 million. In today's dollars, that is equal to more than $1 billion.

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