Great article in the WSJ about Hewlett-Packard. And boy, does it deliver on the title and lead: Let’s say you were given a year to kill HP. Here’s how you do it:
Announce plans to maybe sell the PC business. Or maybe spin off PCs as a stand-alone company. Uncertainty will damage the price. Never mind the years of effort H-P spent — including a controversial merger with Compaq — becoming the world’s largest PC maker. .. From former CEO Carly Fiorina’s spectacular flame-out, and former chairwoman Patricia Dunn’s illegal spying scandal, to Mr. Hurd’s alleged sex scandal that apparently didn’t involve any sex at all, this sort of dysfunction has become “the H-P Way.”
It’s a fun read! Well, for me anyway, I was once a portfolio manager for a large Wall Street firm. It brought up fond memories of other companies, Novell for example, who somehow managed to languish even as their field was exploding. But what strikes me these days is stories like the one unfolding at HP aren’t unique. They seem to be more common than ever. People build a company into a giant success; new people come in and shoot themselves and everything nearby in the head endlessly. And yet they never seem to get fired.
Meanwhile, mid-level managers and entry-level employees are penalized if they’re five minutes late. Miss more than a couple of days in one month and superiors become cool and aloof, you could be fired in a ‘right-to-work’ state for that kind of absenteeism! It’s a weird system, one that guarantees sub par performance and failure. But I guess it pays a tiny sliver of influential people really, really, well.