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Organizing a $408,000,000,000 CEO

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Imagine the task of helping the CEO of a $408 billion business stay organized. Walmart CEO Mike Duke relies on his assistant, Paula, to help him track a business that spans 8,500-plus stores and employs 2.1 million people.

What organizing principles keep the office humming?

A strict “on time” philosophy. Duke’s schedule is packed. If a meeting is scheduled to end, he’s not above leaving, even if someone is still talking.

No e-mail carryovers at the end of the day. Duke likes to keep his e-mail and voice-mail inboxes clear. “At the end of the day, I don’t want any phone messages that haven’t been returned or e-mails that aren’t addressed,” he says.

He reads and deletes, prints or forwards messages to Paula for action.

Preparing in advance for one-on-one meetings. Duke’s assistant puts eight red folders, one for every direct report, on his credenza. Each folder has a sticky note with the name of the executive and the time of his or her next meeting. Duke and his assistant slide in sales figures, questions or notes that need follow-up.

The bigger the business, the more details there are—and the more critical it becomes to have strategies in place for tracking them.

— Adapted from “Meet the CEO of the biggest company on earth,” Brian O’Keefe, Fortune.

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