These things usually abate fairly quickly; sexual pecadillos, robbing the till, and egregious acts of other kinds have a titillating capability for hours or a few days at most. Why is this one still going strong two weeks in?
Perhaps because it still seems surreal, even in the Cheshire Cat world in which we live. Hurd hand-picked seven of the ten directors who voted unanimously to have him resign immediately, for 'piddling offenses' (a wonderful phrase used yesterday by WSJ apologist Holman Jenkins Jr , who had the gall a year ago to inform his readers that the Wall Street meltdown of late 2008 was 'our fault' because we panicked, rather than any culpability by the banking/Wall Street community). Hurd's cronies -- unanimously? For no reason at all? Come on. Get real.
One columnist said "let's look back at his track record at NCR, before coming to HP." The finding: NCR has stagnated ever since -- for the same reason that HP has been stagnating for 34 months -- costcutting, especially when it cuts into bone (i.e. the innovation engine) cannot succeed in building long-term strength. You can build efficiency, but not momentum. And it usually quits working, especially in the brainiac high-tech world when your talent walks out the door. That is why it became double-edged when R&D is slashed so far and key resumes are flooding out of the place. Jenkins calls this "the sickly moanings of the vaunted HP-Way", demonstrating fairly clearly that he hasn't a clue what that 'vaunted idea' meant or means.
No one in this recent brouhaha has resurfaced the cover story for Business Week October 9, 2006 which noted that Hurd was so popular with his NCR employees that they repeatedly slashed the tires on his car in the NCR parking lot, and the company had to hire bodyguards to protect him at home from his 'team'. Wow! And no one has focused really on just how hated this guy was by his HP team -- 34% approval by "the home team" when even a Larry Ellison can garner 78% at Oracle. To blame this on "sickly moanings" of archaic nostalgia for "the HP Way" is seriously demented.
The problem with such drivel is that there is a germ of truth in it, and WSJ readers are not in a place to appreciate the nuances, especially when a too-clever by half editor picks up the cudgel. The HP Way did calcify under Lew Platt; Carly Fiorina was brought in to shake it up; she was resisted mightily under the guise of "protecting the HP Way", and she did ultimately fail. In part, that failure was due to passive compliance, if not outright resistance, to her ideas and leadership -- and "the HP Way" was invoked time and again as the stalking horse for such antics. But just as the bankers might have had just a spot of culpability for the Lehman et al debacle, it is just possible that Carly's leadership style had a little bit to do with all this.
Similarly, there is no question that Hurd did some -- even a lot of -- necessary and valuable 'tough leadership' to 'right the HP ship' in terms of operational effectiveness. That is to be applauded -- UNTIL it crosses the line. To become unethical -- with vendors, customers, employees, shareholders, investigative journalists, and even the board -- is OVER THE LINE. This guy, plain and simple, was and is a thug. There is no place, in the HP Way, the American Way, or in a Fortune 500 leadership company, for such a person to be exonerated, let alone exalted. Jenkins owes the HP Way an apology.