The following is an extract from Thomas J. Watson, Jr., A Business And Its Beliefs: The Ideas that Helped Build IBM.* (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), pp. 22-23.


In time, good service became almost a reflex in IBM, and father [Thomas J. Watson, Sr., founder of IBM] loved to show what the company could do. In 1942 an official of the [U.S.] War Production Board gave him a perfect excuse to do it. The WPB man called him late on the afternoon of Good Friday to place an order for 150 machines, challenging him to deliver the equipment by the following Monday in Washington, D.C. Father said he would have the machines there on time.

On Saturday morning, he and his staff phoned IBM offices all over the country and instructed them to get some 150 machines on the road that Easter weekend. Just to make sure his caller got the point, father instructed his staff to wire the WPB man at his office or home the minute each truck started on its way to Washington, giving the time of the departure and expected arrival. He made arrangements with police and Army officials to escort the trucks which were to be driven around the clock. Customer engineers [IBM service and maintenance personnel] were brought in and a miniature factory set up to handle the reception and installation of the equipment.

There were sleepless people in IBM -- and in WPB -- that weekend.

* Based on Tom Watson's lecture presented at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in the spring of 1962. Sponsored jointly by the School and the McKinsey Foundation for Management Research, Inc., the lecture was part of the continuing series on the management of large organizations.