Dell, Wall St., and Toyota

Goldman upgrades Dell on turnaround hopes

Here’s another contrast between Toyota and Dell, particularly striking in context of my recent podcast with Norman Bodek:

Dell shares rallied nearly 3 percent Monday after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to “buy” from “neutral” amid calls on Wall Street for the company to cut jobs and improve profit margins.

Meanwhile, a report in the Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” column highlighted the argument for Dell to reverse a sharp rise in its workforce of over 50 percent during the past two years. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, among others, has called for Dell to cut jobs by 10 to 15 percent.

Problem #1: Dell revenue was $49B in 2005 and $57B in 2007. How you grow the workforce 50% with only a 16% increase in revenue is pretty astounding. This is yet another reason why I don’t like lumping Dell into the broad category of “lean” companies. Is Dell throwing people at it’s processes rather than improving the processes themselves? Adding so many people so quickly leads you to….

Problem #2: Only Wall Street can see huge job cuts (10% of 82,200 employees is 8220 jobs) as a positive thing for a company. Toyota has gone over 50 years without huge layoffs, Dell does it every few years (starting in 2001). Think about the cost of poor morale that comes from these boom and bust cycles (and Dell’s “boom” wasn’t much of one). Think about the loss of human capital.

I’m guessing that one reason Toyota has been able to avoid layoffs is prudent and careful hiring in the first place. Dell might do well in “lean” measures of time to cash and inventory, but lean is about more than pure financial measures. I can’t see how Dell can do well on the people side with all the hiring the firing and the fear that it must create within the organization.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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1 Comment on "Dell, Wall St., and Toyota"

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  1. Mark Graban says:

    More from the WSJ:

    One reason Wall Street is clamoring for layoffs at Dell is that the slash-and-burn tactic has worked before. Exhibit A is rival H-P. After CEO Mark Hurd joined H-P in early 2005, he quickly restructured the Palo Alto, Calif., company. That July, he announced a plan to cut 15,300 employees, or around 10% of H-P’s overall staff, for savings of $1.7 billion in its fiscal 2007 year.

    Since then, H-P’s earnings and revenue growth have improved. And its stock is up more than 21% over the past year, though its shares are down so far this year. In 4 p.m. composite trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, shares of H-P, which has a market value of $107 billion, closed at $40.43, down two cents.

    Dell’s work force has ballooned in recent years because the company has added employees in its manufacturing plants and call centers for sales, support and service. Last year, Dell said it would invest $150 million to improve its “customer experience.” The company also announced earlier this year that it would add manufacturing plants in Poland, India and Brazil.

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