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Aligned Thinking Institute

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Aligned Thinking: Make
      Every Moment Count
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Business Atlantic, Inc.

August 16, 2001

Dr. R. James Steffen

Steffen and Steffen Associates

107 Newtown Road

Danbury, CT   0681 0

Dear Jim:

Based on our conversation, I would like to offer the following observations about the various programs of yours which I have participated in and/or used over the years. Let me hasten to point out that the views expressed are my own and that I am not speaking for IBM.

As you know, I was involved in various aspects of education during about 15 years of my 34 year career with IBM, including several Director assignments that were either directly or indirectly responsible for training. We first met when I was Manager of Executive Education with responsibility for training Customer Executives and experienced IBM marketing people.  I had nationwide responsibility and managed the education centers located in San Jose, CA and Poughkeepsie, NY.

Our goal was to increase marketing productivity and customer satisfaction.  Our research showed that the more time a marketing rep spends with the customer, the more they sell.  A 5% or 10% increase in face-to-face time at little or no additional cost could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Because our target population was experienced marketing people, most, if not all, had taken one or more time management courses already. But, we knew that some, if not many, over time had developed bad time management habits.

We also knew that increased productivity was not enough.  Whatever we did to increase customer and employee satisfaction.  This would have to be the motivator to get acceptance of any new tools for long-term improvement.  We needed a process that had the following characteristics:

1.   A strong philosophical/psychological foundation for these experienced people

2.   The ability to increase productivity while adding to the employee's satisfaction

3.   Easy to learn and implement immediately with just two days in class

4.   Most of all, simple to use with high long-term retention.

We tested a number of courses from many different vendors.  Some seemed great in class. But we consistently got low retention/use levels.

I heard you speak at a local Kiwanis meeting. I attended the SSA Time/Life Mastery course, and felt it had all four of the above. I asked a number of other IBMer's to attend the workshop. They came away with the same evaluation:

1.   It was simple to use immediately

2.  They experienced an increase in accomplishment and satisfaction in personal and business life

3.  It changed their thinking and habits with long term promise, e.g. MIN (Most Important Now).

Other programs I went to helped organize "to-dos", but the SSA Time/Life Mastery seminar was a real system with the deep philosophical/psychological pinnings we demanded. Because many of our people had a strong technical background, a real system was important.

At the same time, your system was simple to understand and use. When all was said and done, you focused on just three critical questions to answer and one was ready to begin. The concept of MIN (Most Important Now) has changed people's lives. Experience proved they remembered it and continued to use it for a lifetime.

As you may remember, I was so impressed at the time that I even sent my wife and two daughters to the "public" SSA classes at my own expense. Susan, our youngest, is now a practicing physician and she gives your course credit for helping her to get through Princeton and then medical school, by enabling her to focus on her MIN. Barbara, our oldest daughter, used the MIN notion when she was a dorm counselor in college to help confused and frantic freshman to get their bearings on where to spend their time.

From an IBM standpoint, Aligned Thinking used in the Time/Life Mastery Seminar helps the individual align their individual needs to the needs of the customer and company, a win-win-win.

Because of the success we had with a targeted group of people, we made it available to the seasoned marketing people, used it with headquarters personnel and brought it to the Far East when I was Director of Education for IBM's Americas Far East Corporation.

With all the initiatives IBM regularly had, it is hard to precisely pinpoint the effect on the bottom line.  We did get feedback that over 90% reported they were more productive and over 90% said they were more satisfied. Remarkable numbers, because IBMer's are not easily impressed.

I have reviewed the new Time/Life Mastery course that is assisted by the Internet. The Internet program gives a person, be they marketing or non-marketing, tools that we never had in the pre-Internet version. These tools help solve three big challenges.

1. Constructing and regularly refining an individualized self-improvement plan

2. Creating and updating Professional and Personal Missions in a very short time

3. Consistently working smarter by setting priorities while avoiding some common mistakes.

All of this not only promises to increase productivity, but also helps a person master the control over their time and their life.

With the Internet tools, the teaching time has been cut to one day. Besides the day saved, MASTERING YOUR TIME/LIFE on the Internet offers the help of a virtual coach to review the self-improvement plan 7x24x365. I personally think the daily coaching aspect is the key.

When I was in charge of training my major concern was the actual building of new habits. We always struggled for a good follow-up process to achieve optimal retention and use levels. This new Internet assisted MASTERING YOUR TIME/LIFE program has taken the concept of follow-up to build and retain habits to a new level. I like the approach of having the participant receive three levels of follow-up each week.

1.  Daily - a list of the priorities they set or a reminder to work smart

2.  Tuesday - a reminder of the self-improvement habits they are focusing on

3.  Friday - an additional hint for Mastering Your Time/Life using Aligned Thinking.

For me, because retention was the key factor in choosing a time management program, MASTERING YOUR TIME/LIFE with the Internet to help has to be a natural.

In closing, I thank you not only for supporting my efforts at improving productivity at IBM, but also for the very positive impact you have had on my personal life and that of my family.


Woody Bliss

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