Saturday, 9 October 2010

Coherence for trust


We believe one of the biggest needs a company like HP does need these days is trust.

Trust from customers, trust from partners, trust from shareholders, trust from vendors, trust from employees too. Trust from the market, in short.

If it only were for the fact that trust is the base of the share value that ultimately will hold, support and sustain the company career in the market.

Trust in its values, its leadership, its ways and procedures, its fair play.

Though History has plenty of examples of leaders that have succeeded based on the general trust they have inspired, the recent episodes starred by HP generate some doubts in our minds.

In early August CEO Mark Hurd is ousted after some ethics and confidence principles.

HP takes its time to name a successor, while zillions of rumours of all imaginable flavors, like Bertie Bott’s beans, spread all over the media.

In a context background were relatively recently Oracle was swiftly but openly sliding to war against the rest of the Universe, including HP in particular, the latter needed a bold and clear move that as well went as fast as reasonably possible.

A probably not irrelevant coup about one month after Hurd packed his stuff from Palo Alto, drove him into the arms of Big-Mouth-Larry at Oracle. This could be seen today as the natural aftermath of a series of unfortunate declarations from the Oracle’s Pontifex Maximus where words like idiots, resignation en masse and other delicatessen were not infrequent.

We think it is not unlikely that HP’s Board took this last bravado from Big-Mouth as a somewhat personal insult to HP and its board… and even eventually determined them to twist the path they could very well have followed up to that point by naming CEO a more expected or natural candidate. At the end of the day, all the media have been filled up regularly with the names of Bradley, Livermore, Joshi, Tim Cook and quite a number of others…The usual suspects. HP even tried to prevent Hurd from teaming with Big-Mouth by filing suit against the move… a minor clash that ended up quickly with no further consequences than making more obvious who was on which side. The war theatre even afforded getting special guest stars as Jack Welch who starred an unforgettable panegyric for some in pectore candidate…

So 55 days after Cathie Lesjak stepped up temporarily as interim CEO, enter the unexpected Léo Apotheker… followed by Ray Lane as the new non-exec Chairman of the Board. Rescued from unemployment, and with a background at SAP that won’t lead him to succeeding Jack Welch as Manager of the Century precisely, he still might deserve a pass.

Apparently, the stage was set for just a “wait and see” status quo, the market anxiously awaiting the next move. But not all the elements had been considered so far.

Next November the show will go on in a different scenario, a trial about inappropriate procedures by SAP against Oracle. The hot topic won’t be about guilt versus innocence, but more about how much. As a matter of fact, SAP has admitted responsibility, and though being tens of millions a reasonable fine for them, Big-Mouth talks of billions.

We do not know the level of engagement and involvement of the apparently calm Léo… but the matter sounds fishy enough to consider whether he was appropriate or not for HP, given the situation HP’s in, and the reputation it is rapidly earning.

If Hurd was ousted based on ethics… why the very same judges forget so easily about ethics now? Was that important to slap Big-Mouth in his face? Is the slapping worth a reputation?

If you are interested in details, yo may want to read The New York Times.


Léo Apotheker, new HP CEO

Ray Lane, new Chairman of the Board at HP’s.