If you have followed HP over the last 12 months, you know that they have had, should we say, some serious missteps in the marketplace. Investor confidence was down and consumers were confused about their strategies, products and future.
The way they communicated the potential spin off of the PSG or PC division only made consumers question whether they should even buy an HP PC if they were not sure they were going to be there to support it 12-18 months from now. They literally made PSG a lame duck division.
Executive Chairman Ray Lane, on the call this afternoon, pointed out that after Aug 18th he got an earful from investors and customers alike and from that point he and the board began to realize that they had to make changes at the top. In the end, they fired former CEO Leo Apotheker for lack of execution and pinned the communications fiasco on him. With that, they determined they needed not only a proven business leader but one that was a great communicator as well. Lane pointed out that they had fresh CEO research material from the last search and even with the prospects that were on that list still in their sight, they determined that someone from within, specifically Meg Whitman who had 8 months of being a board member under her belt, was the right choice.
While many may question her total skill set to run a company like HP, I don’t think HP had a real choice but to hire from within. The problems of the present was only setting them back in terms of short and long term execution and they could not wait even another quarter to right the ship. What she brings to HP is the ability to hit the ground running with little learning curves and make decisions that will help get the rank and file positive again and moving in the same direction. She is knowledgeable enough to quickly sort out the critical strategic issues before them and make the kind of hard decisions needed to get the company moving in the right direction, at least in the short term. She is also a very fast learner, with the ability to absorb a great deal of diverse information quickly.
I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to get HP moving forward again now and not six or nine months from now.
Whitman made a commitment to deal with the question of PSG as a spin out as fast as possible. More importantly, Ray Lane explained that the intention of the communication about PSG on Aug 18 was to state that the big question about PSG was whether it could be a more nimble company capable of faster innovation if it was spun out. And if that were not the case, it needed to stay inside HP and continue to be a strategic part of their hardware business. Obviously, this is not what they said or what the investors or customers got from the way it was communicated on Aug 18, which is why all the confusion. But it is a priority for Whitman and the board to get this resolved quickly so as not to harm the PC business any further and I applaud her for making this a top issue immediately.
Only time will tell if she was the right one to take over at this time in HP’s history but she has the leadership and communication skills HP needs now to keep it from sinking any further and rallying the troops around a unified vision. And at the moment, I believe that is the real reason the board decided on Whitman. They need her to correct the problems of the present now and get them moving in the right direction as fast as possible.