Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dead DEAD?

A fascinating week! First, let me acknowledge Peter Hill's critical Amazon review posted last week. He takes strong issue with our HP book -- which he bought hopeful to "motivate me to think better of the company I work for." He's been at HP two years, coming via the EDS acquisition. His conclusion about our book -- two stars out of five, pretty damning! -- is that "Something is definitely wrong at HP and this book sadly is not much help in finding out what. It's a nostalgic look that is probably really interesting if you are 70 and remember working at HP in the sixties."

And yes, I agree with him when he paraphrases our opening "the HP Way is dead, Dead, DEAD" and he adds that "it's been dead for twenty years". I couldn't agree more. I left the company 20 years ago for that very reason.

Furthermore, I agree with him when he writes "you'd be better off to read the gossip columns about the Mark Hurd dismissal". The fact that we contributed heavily to those gossip columns -- I was the first one, and the only one in the worldwide press for 72 hours -- to pronounce that guy the thug that he was (and is), aptly caught in Hill's quote "the greed of the executive tier and the manipulative bunch of silicon valley insiders responsible for the acquisition bloat that is HP today."

If Hill were to review this three year running blog about HP, he might find more relevant material re "today's HP" than in our avowedly "strategic history book" about HP. My guess is that Peter is struggling with whether he is at the wrong company, or the right company at the wrong time -- just "reading between the lines"

But his question and extended critique begs a serious answer. Bianco's book "The Big Lie" about Hurd's corrupt leadership comes at it for an individual, at this one company. But the book that takes on Corporate America, not just greedy HP leaders or even Silicon Valley insiders, has yet to be written. That book would have to include Mike Cassidy's column when Paul Baran died, where he opined that Baran was a relic of 'the old days' in silicon valley, before "business bullies and braggarts" took over.

I call it "The Broken Dream: Wall Street vs. Main Street" (copyrighted here first). Such a book would analyze just when it was that Venture Capital, the nation's Business Schools, and Wall Street conspired, albeit loosely, to decide that Charlie Wilson at GM 58 years ago was wrong when he said "what's good for GM is good for he country." Now the thesis instead seems to be "what's good for (insert your favorite company name here) is good for the shareholders" while leaving unsaid the rest of the sentence -- "and to hell with the employees and the local community". The HP of which we wrote believed that shareholders were pnly one of four major constituencies to be served, and executives at the company were not even one of the four. Back then, employee contributions to local civic affairs was expected in both time and resources; employee satisfaction and enthusiasm were important, even vital. Outsourcing would have been anathema, even as intellectual contribution around the globe was celebrated.

That book would be more relevant, but it would be a depressing book to have to report that not only HP, but Intel, Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and practically any other of our 'revered' high tech giants of yesteryear have the same disease. Not to mention Citibank, Merrill Lynch, WalMart, Motorola, DuPont, Xerox, any car company of rank, the oil companies, AIG, Boeing, Kodak, and other "household brands" We've broken the bond, and this, more than sagging K-12 math scores, is killing America.

Not sure that such a book would be very popular, certainly not in leadership halls.

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