While I agree with Ben Franklin’s idea, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” countless companies have wasted time and money on strategic plans that are collecting dust. People spend lots of time planning but very little time turning those plans into daily actionable tasks. Some suggest that putting your goal in the mirror so you see it every day will make it come true. I would suggest that your mission statement belongs on your mirror, and your goals and tasks associated with achieving your mission are meant for action. Daily clarity leads to accomplishing the most important things every day. Difference Making Actions (DMAs) are the best way I have found to be clear on a daily basis. They will keep you from having a day where you feel like you are busy but getting nothing done. The following idea comes from Charles Schwab, the first American to be paid a million dollar salary.
In the early 1900s, Schwab was President of the Bethlehem Steel Company. The small steel company was struggling. A business consultant named Ivy Lee told Schwab that he could share in 15 minutes a strategy with Schwab’s managers that would double productivity. When Schwab inquired about the price for the help, Lee said, “After using it for six months, you can pay me what you think its worth.”
Here’s what Ivy Lee told Charles Schwab and his managers: “Every night, at the end of each day, write down the six most important things that need to get done the next day. Write only six, no more. Prioritize them with number one being the most important. In the morning, start with number one and do only number one until it is completed. Do not go on to number 2 until number one is completed. When number one is completed go on to number 2, then do only number 2 until it is completed. And so on. If you get done with all of them you can start a new list.”
Only a few months passed when Mr. Lee received a letter from the Bethlehem Steel Company. Inside the envelope, Mr. Lee found a check in the amount of $25,000 ($250,000 in today’s dollars) and a note from Schwab saying the lesson was the most profitable he had ever learned. The voluntary payment to Mr. Lee was quite a bargain considering that Bethlehem Steel went on to become one of the giants in the steel industry and one of the most successful corporations in U.S. history.
How to Implement the DMA Strategy:
- First thing every morning, take a sticky note.
- At the top write your most important current goal.
- Then write the numbers 1-5 down the page.
- Next to the 1, write the most important thing you could do today to accomplish that goal. Then write the next most important things under 2, 3, 4 and 5.