Dell to Focus on Long Term?


Can Michael Dell Refocus His Namesake? – New York Times

The Toyota Way philosophy preaches a focus on the long term business objectives or as stated in the book (and summarized on wikipedia):

Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.”

I've written before here about how Dell isn't a Toyota Production System “Lean” company, although many people use the lean word to describe Dell. Why have I always made that argument? Because of Dell's management approach being so different than Toyota, it has nothing to do with supply chain efficiency or build-to-order approaches.

This new profile on Dell, the company, and Michael Dell, the CEO says:

“The company was too focused on the short term, and the balance of priorities was way too leaning toward things that deliver short-term results — that was the major root cause,” explains Mr. Dell..”

Straight from Michael, himself. I'll give him bonus points for referring to a “root cause,” a term and concept we often work with in the Lean world. Having an overly short-term focus does sound like something close to a true root cause for a company's problems, instead of blaming people or other factors.

Toyota's culture is often described as one where people are encouraged to expose problems rather than hiding them, as we do in many traditional business cultures. “No problems is a problem” is the famous expression. When Allan Mulally took over at Ford, he noticed how the Ford culture was one where people would hide problems from open discussion (most likely out of fear, as Deming would have pointed out ironic since he worked so much with Ford in the day).

Michael Dell started trying to change the Dell culture:

AS soon as he took over as chief executive, Mr. Dell declared a two-month “amnesty” to encourage people to discuss problems and deal with them quickly, without fear of being fired or demoted. Otherwise, Mr. Dell says, managers might have understated troubles and defended past decisions.

Why just a two-month amnesty? Why not make that part of a permanent culture shift at Dell? I had a manager at Dell, back in 2000, who said (and believed this), “My job is to make my boss look good.” Really? I thought our job was to actually make things good, not to make things look good. Hence the cultural challenges at Dell.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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