HP’s Leadership Carousel Continues with new CEO

by Matt Klassen on September 23, 2011

Failing to heed the tongue-in-cheek counsel of many analysts across the country, it looks like struggling PC-giant Hewlett-Packard has named former EBay head Meg Whitman as its new CEO, replacing former CEO Leo Apotheker after less than a year on the job in the company’s seemingly endless leadership carousel.

There’s little question that Apotheker had driven the powerful company into the ground, as under his tenure HP had seemingly lost focus, unable to successfully integrate strong assets like Palm’s webOS and unsure of what to do with the company’s integral PC division. In a word, under Apotheker’s reign, HP has been nothing short of a ‘disaster.’

That said, seemingly taking a page of Apotheker’s very book of knee-jerk leadership moves, the company’s board bowed to investor pressure and instead of giving Apotheker time to right the ship, gave him his walking papers and showed him the door. Now under the guidance of Whitman, will HP be able to pull itself out of this downward spiral?

In a statement, HP executive chairman Ray Lane said:

We are at a critical moment and we need renewed leadership to successfully implement our strategy and take advantage of the market opportunities ahead. Meg is a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution. She is a strong communicator who is customer focused with deep leadership capabilities. Furthermore, as a member of HP’s board of directors for the past eight months, Meg has a solid understanding of our products and markets.

There are many ways that companies can execute a change in leadership, from well-crafted succession plans like we’ve seen with Apple recently on, quite honestly, HP’s rumoured-filled ill-handed debacle on the other.

For several days now rumours have been floating through the blogosphere that HP was contemplating a change a top, and while said rumours had a temporary positive influence on the company’s stock prices, I would wager it did little to improve long-term investor confidence, saying nothing about the fact that its just plain mean to drag Apotheker, regardless of his leadership track record, through that kind of stress.

Of course my sympathy for Apotheker ends just about there, as since taking over as HP’s CEO back in November 2010, he has quite literally taken a rock solid company and given it nothing short of an identity crisis, spearheading the expensive acquisition of software company Autonomy while mulling over spinning off the company’s foundational PC division, all the while making spontaneous knee-jerk decisions about scuttling the company’s newly released TouchPad tablet and webOS, the key piece of its Palm acquisition last year.

So will Whitman be able to right the ship? There’s no question that the former CEO of EBay has her work cut out for her, but her track record at helping businesses find their indentify and leading them towards sustainable growth is strong, and HP could surely use a little more identity and focus these days.

While Whitman seems to be a decent choice for HP’s top spot, if I were an HP investor the move would do little to calm my nerves, as if anything what the company has demonstrably proved over the last little while is that HP’s entire board seems to lack clarity and leadership, having little or no understanding of core leadership qualities—hence the original hiring of Apotheker—and having no patience for mistakes—hence his removal after less than a year.

In the end, I would say that its serious changes at the Board of Directors level that HP really needs, otherwise Whitman need not get too comfortable in her new role as the leadership carousel will undoubtedly continue to turn.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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