Management Functions at Work: Dell’s Secret in its Success
The success of managing an organization cannot occur, at least not within a reasonable time frame, without the functions of management deeply imbibed within their operations. Today, more companies recognize the benefits that of these functions of management in the process of organizational development. The implementation and outcome of their operations rely greatly on how they stick with these functions.
In rudimentary management classes, we all learned that the job of every manager involves what is known as the functions of management: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. Henry Fayol, a pioneer of management theory. He was the first to outline the main functions of management. These functions are goal-directed, interrelated and interdependent. Planning involves devising a systematic process for attaining the goals of the organization. It prepares the organization for the future.
Organizing involves arranging the necessary resources to carry out the plan. It is the process of creating structure, establishing relationships, and allocating resources to accomplish the goals of the organization. Directing involves the guiding, leading, and overseeing of employees to achieve organizational goals. Finally, controlling involves verifying that actual performance matches the plan. If performance results do not match the plan, corrective action should be taken (Allen, 1998).
Furthermore, Mintzberg (1973) undertook an extensive study of five executives (including four CEOs) at work. Based on this research, Mintzberg developed a different view to Fayol’s four functions and improved it as he indicated three major management roles: interpersonal, informational and decisional.
In the present view of a success in any given company, a study of how they applied these functions and roles as an organization is vital in attaining their goals. One example of those companies is Dell Inc., which is a trusted and diversified information-technology supplier in the US. Their business involves selling comprehensive portfolio of products and services directly to customers worldwide. Dell, recognized by Fortune magazine as America’s most admired company and No. 3 globally, designs, builds and delivers innovative, tailored systems that provide customers with exceptional value. Company revenue for the last four quarters was $52.8 billion (Dell Website).
However, with the swiftly growing business Dell Computers have faced serious problems before. When Dell CEO Michael S. Dell and President Kevin B. Rollins met privately in the fall of 2001, they felt confident that the company was recovering from the global crash in PC sales. Regardless of what they thought, internal interviews among their employees revealed that subordinates thought Dell, 38, was impersonal and emotionally detached, while Rollins, 50, was seen as autocratic and antagonistic. Few felt strong loyalty to the company’s leaders. Worse, the discontent was spreading: A survey taken over the summer, following the company’s first-ever mass layoffs, found that half of Dell Inc.’s employees would leave if they got the chance (Park and Burrows, 2003).
As much as it was a big surprise, what happened next says much about why Dell was tagged as the best-managed company in area of technology. In other companies, the management might have shrugged off the criticisms or let the issue slide. But what Dell did was to focus on these criticisms that were thrown at them for they fear that their best employees would leave them.
Within a week, Dell bravely faced his top 20 managers and offered a frank self-critique, acknowledging that he is hugely shy and that it sometimes made him seem aloof and unapproachable. He vowed to forge tighter bonds with his team. Some of his employees were shocked because they knew personality tests given to key executives had repeatedly shown Dell to be an ”off-the-charts introvert,” and such an admission from him had to have been painful and pride-swallowing. But in the closer analysis, Dell was just utilizing his “interpersonal” management role as what Mintzberg has previously emphasized in his management model.
The success of how Michael Dell manages the company that has elevated it far above its direct selling business model. The secret might be situated in his belief that the status quo is never good enough, even if it means painful changes for the man with his name on the door. When success is achieved, it’s greeted with five seconds of praise followed by five hours of postmortem on what could have been done better. Michael Dell always emphasized, ”Celebrate for a nanosecond. Then move on.” One anecdote about his penchant on this belief is when an outfit opened its first Asian factory in Malaysia. The Dell, as the CEO then, sent the manager heading the job one of his old running shoes to congratulate him. The message: This is only the first step in a marathon.
Just as crucial is Michael Dell’s belief that once a problem is uncovered, it should be dealt with quickly and directly, without excuses. ”There’s no ‘The dog ate my homework’ here,” says Dell. Indeed, after Randall D. Groves, then head of the server business, delivered 16% higher sales last year, he was demoted. Never mind that none of its rivals came close to that. It could have been better, say two former Dell executives. Groves referred calls to a Dell spokesman, who says Groves’ job change was part of a broader reorganization.
Thus, a manager’s role is to lead his/her organization to a clearly stated objective, as what Michael S. Dell did to his company. In doing so he/she must muster all his resources in a concise and organized attempt at achieving those goals. As Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for eBusiness at the MIT intelligently observed about Dell’s secret management style: “They’re inventing business processes. It’s an asset that Dell has that its competitors don’t.”
About Dell. Dell Incorporated Website. Acquired online September 19, 2005 at http://www1.us.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/en/home?c=us&l=en&s=corp
Allen, G. Managerial Functions, 1998. Acquired online September 19, 2005
Mintzberg, H. The Nature of Managerial Work, Harper and Row, New York, NY, 1973.
Park, A. and Burrows, P. “What you don’t know about Dell.” Business Week The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. No. 3856, November 3, 2003, p. 76