For more than 20 years, Dell has continued to surpass its competitors, gain revenue and expand its customer base through innovative computing products and services, a customer-focused direct business style and a unique culture. However, the key to Dell’s ongoing success is literally found in the company’s soul.
“At the underpinnings to everything we do, we have what we call our Soul of Dell, which is our articulation of what we believe in for the company,” said Mike Summers, vice president of global learning and development for Dell. “It is about the customer, it is about the Dell team, it is about our learning culture, and these characteristics are portrayed and built into everything we do in the development space.”
The Soul of Dell defines the kind of company Dell is and aspires to become, serving as a guide for the company’s actions around the world and the foundation of its success. The Soul of Dell consists of five core elements: customers, the Dell team, direct relationships, global citizenship and winning culture. Each core element plays an integral role in every aspect of the company’s processes.
Summers is responsible for the learning and development of approximately 58,000 team members around the globe. The learning and development curricula are differentiated by the level of the employees: executive, manager and supporting workforce. For more than six years, succession management has been one of many strategic organizational development processes leading Dell’s climb in the market.
“The succession management process has evolved over the last six years to better meet the needs of the corporation and its business units,” Summers said. “We have spent a lot of time revisiting our performance management process. We have instituted many upgrades to many of our tools of development in terms of being able to follow and track people’s progress against individual development plans. Within the last 18 months, we have developed and implemented a series of programs for what we consider our key talent—individuals at various levels that are most capable and most ready of scaling to even higher opportunities. And to date we have identified and/or put 500 people through these programs.”
The premise behind all of Dell’s learning development is its 70-20-10 philosophy. Seventy percent of learning takes place through differentiated assignments—projects, short-term assignments, job-rotational assignments, etc. Twenty percent of learning occurs through coaching and mentoring in both informal and formal settings, and 10 percent is delivered through outside experiential learning. Within these development processes, more than 70 percent of learning is delivered by Dell leaders, 20 percent by personal growth experiences and 10 percent through outside partners.
“Dell has put enormous energy and senior leadership commitment behind these programs. These programs are led by our senior leaders, including Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins,” Summers said. “I believe that personal participation on the part of our senior leaders is a critical component to these programs, and we do it very well.”
Dell continuously follows the movement and progress of its key talent. According to Summers, executive leaders are currently following the movement of 500 to 600 talented employees. They track and measure the frequency of movement to different assignments, the speed of advancement and promotion, and dependability of these workers relative to their peers and the core workforce population.
“We have seen people, because we use the 70-20-10 model, be provided with next assignments with their overall development. We have moved a significant number of these people into different roles, and that has created overall a much more broadly experienced Dell executive team,” he said. “We have also seen individuals begin to act outside of their normal boundaries in the course of just doing their jobs, and people that may be functional leaders proactively participating on their own to help people in other business sectors who may be challenged with a particular strategic initiative or growth initiative. And this is exactly what we want to accomplish—the best of our best looking beyond their functional or business boundaries and trying to help that kind of cadre of executive soul for Dell.”
Because executives are continually searching for and removing unnecessary costs from operations, Dell saved $1.9 billion last year. “Our efforts through BPI (business process improvement) provides significant return on investment. These activities are going on all the time, all over the place at Dell,” Summers said. “They are being championed in great part by our executives who go through these programs, which might include executive BPI training that will give them enhanced skills to do this work.”
Looking beyond the horizon, beyond the set objectives and goals, has kept Dell at the forefront of its industry. In the end, Dell’s ability to be adaptive to its development needs, the needs of its employees and customers, and the technology needs in the marketplace has propelled the company beyond the horizon of success. “We haven’t built static programs—we have built nimble programs that will continue to grow and morph as our people and business continue to grow and change on a global basis,” Summers said. “I am proud of our ability to build programs that actually operate the same way that our business does—with speed, directness and nimbleness.”
–Cari McLean, firstname.lastname@example.org