Michael Dell, founder and chairman of the company that bears his name, provided a strong endorsement of his company’s CEO, Kevin Rollins, at a meeting today designed to apprise analysts and investors of Dell’s product and technology plans.
In the wonderful world of professional sports, the dreaded vote of confidence from executive management often is a foreshadowing that the axe is about to fall on a coach or general manager. Despite Michael Dell’s protestations to the contrary today, I wonder about Mr. Rollins’ job security at Dell Computer.
Clearly, as Michael Dell himself made clear today, the company’s problems are not all the fault of Rollins. Said Dell:
I believe that Kevin Rollins is an outstanding executive. I think characterizations of the company’s challenges as being only of Kevin’s doing are inaccurate. Kevin and I run the business together. So if you want to blame someone, you can blame me too.
Dell is right. He should share the blame with Rollins, and others, at Dell for the company’s continuing missteps and travails. Michael Dell was just as guilty as the company’s other leaders for taking his eye of the ball, getting complacent, and allowing Dell to lose its business focus, market momentum, and corporate flexibility.
But Michael Dell has an impressive track record of success at his company, and investors and analysts will give him a chance to rediscover the magic. Kevin Rollins? He doesn’t have that cushion, that history, behind him. Major institutional investors, large customers, and strategic business partners will be less forgiving of the debacles the company has experienced during Rollins’ mandate as CEO.
Can Michael Dell be his company’s Steve Jobs, coming to the rescue of a beleaguered, seemingly enervated technology firm and helping to restore it to former glory? Well, probably not, because life and business are more complicated than that, and also because Michael Dell, by his own entirely accurate admission, has been part of the problem, rather than part of a possible solution, at Dell Computer.
Still, he represents a measure of hope to the desperate stakeholders at Dell. If things at the company get worse before they get better — and that’s entirely likely — look for pressure to mount, internally and externally, for Michael Dell to return to the CEO chair and for Kevin Rollins to leave the company.