Hip-Checked

John Gruber reminded us all that Robert X. Cringley called Whitman’s hip-check to Apotheker a while back:

She’ll eventually get around to hip-checking Apotheker and taking his job.

This is a terrible move by HP in every respect. It shows a clear lack of direction, strategy, vision, and control.

I would guess that when Apotheker took the job of CEO 11 months ago, he did so by laying out a clear plan of action for HP to the Board. My guess was that this past month was him finally implementing the public side of those plans — his plan was the IBM plan, ditch hardware and consumer businesses and flock to enterprise and consulting.

Mark Hurd is/was a product guy and he steered HP towards consumer products. He wanted WebOS so that he had a weapon to use against Apple and Google in the hot mobile sector.

Leo Apotheker is/was an enterprise software guy, he used a slow WebOS start to kill the most consumer friendly products HP makes. Next he spent billions to bring in an enterprise company few had heard of and publicly announced his plans for reshaping HP.

Enter Meg Whitman.

Regardless of Whitman’s plans for the future of HP, instating her as CEO shows a complete lack of direction by the Board of HP. Hurd no doubt kept the Board in the loop about his strategy and plans — he may well have still been in power had allegations not been slung his way — and the Board approved his consumer oriented plan. They agreed with his direction.

Upon Hurd’s ouster the Board hired Apotheker, full well knowing that his plans were the complete opposite of Hurd’s. They consented knowing that massive changes that were about to come forth — they reversed direction and hopped on the Apotheker train.

Hurd, unlike Apotheker, was fired over ethical concerns. Apotheker, however, was fired for implementing the plan that the Board approved — that’s a big difference.

Meg Whitman is and was on the Board during all of this. HP’s board is a clusterfuck of stupid and that includes Whitman — who is now President and CEO.

Indecision

When I was learning how to drive the hardest thing for me was deciding when to slam on the brakes versus when to speed up to make it through a light that had just changed to yellow. My Dad (who taught me to drive) told me this:

What ever you do, make a decision and stick with it. Indecision in this moment will kill you.

That’s exactly what has been going on at HP since Hurd left: indecision and it has been killing the company. This is not the CEO’s fault, it’s the fault of the Board — who for better or worse is now also the CEO.

HP didn’t give WebOS a chance, the moment it soured they killed it. Likewise they didn’t give Apotheker a chance to transform the company, the moment the stock faltered, they rounded up a scapegoat.

For the past year HP has looked like a dog being tempted on opposite sides of the room by two treats. Constantly rushing back and forth so as to not lose either of the treats, but never actually getting either of the treats.

The real question for Whitman now: can she actually get HP to stick to a plan — any plan — for more than a year?

Is HP capable of making a decision — any decision — and sticking with it, for better or worse?

Originally posted for members on: September 22, 2011
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