One day a management
consultant, Ivy Lee, called on Schwab of the Bethlehem Steel Company. Lee
outlined briefly his firm's services, ending with the statement: "With
our service, you'll know how to manage better."
The indignant Schwab
said, "I'm not managing as well now as I know how. What we need around
here is not more "knowing" but more doing, not knowledge but
action; if you can give us something to pep us up to do the things we
ALREADY KNOW we ought to do, I'll gladly listen to you and pay you anything
Lee. "I can give you something in twenty minutes that will step up your
action and doing at least 50 percent".
Schwab. "I have just about that much time before I must leave to catch
a train. What's your idea?"
Lee pulled a bland 3x5
note sheet out of his pocket, handed it to Schwab and said: "Write on
this sheet the six most important tasks you have to do tomorrow". That
took about three minutes. "Now", said Lee, "number them in
the order of their importance". Five more minutes passed.
"Now", said Lee, "put this sheet in you pocket and the first
thing tomorrow morning look at item one and start working on it. Pull the
sheet out of your pocket every 15 or 20 minutes and look at item one until it is
finished. Then tackle item two in the same way, then item three. Do this
until quitting time. Don't be concerned if you only finished two or three,
or even if you only finish one item. You'll be working on the important
ones. The others can wait. If you can't finish them all by this method, you
couldn't with any other method either, and without some system you'd
probably not even decide which are most important".
"Spend the last
five minutes of every working day making out a 'must' list for
the next day's tasks. After you've convinced yourself of the worth of this
system have your men try it. Try it out as long as you wish and then send me
a check for what YOU think it's worth".
The whole interview
lasted about twenty-five minutes. In two weeks Schwab sent Lee a check for
$25,000 - a thousand dollars a minute. He added a note saying the lesson was
the most profitable from a money standpoint he had every learned. Did it
work? In five years it turned the unknown Bethlehem Steel Company into the
biggest independent steel producer in the world; made Schwab a hundred
million dollar fortune, and the best known steel man alive at that time.