Former HP chief exec Carly Fiorina has criticised what she called a "dysfunctional board" at the IT giant and revealed that she also investigated board leaks while she was in charge.
A group becomes dysfunctional, "when people can't put disagreements on the table," she said. "When people can no longer speak plainly about tough issues, bad things happen." Fiorina was talking at a book singing at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View in Silicon Valley.
The comments are repeated in the book itself, called Tough Choice, which chronicles Fiorina's career culminating in her hiring in 1999 as HP's CEO and chairman, in which she writes that "some board members' behavior was amateurish and immature. Some didn't do their homework. Some had fixed opinions on certain topics and no opinion at all on others."
Fiorina told the meeting that the changes she made at HP have yet to play out in the marketplace so it was too soon to assess her impact, or that of her successor, Mark Hurd. "It's not about me versus Mark or who gets the credit. The legacy will take four or five years to be clear," Fiorina said.
Fiorina was fired by HP's board in February 2005, about three years after completion of the merger she pushed between HP and Compaq. HP's stock price languished in the wake of the $19 billion merger, there were problems with integration of the two companies and HP missed one quarterly earnings estimate by 23 percent. Since Hurd replaced her in April 2005, the company's stock price has doubled and its revenue and profitability increased. It is now set to end fiscal 2006 with more than $90 billion in revenue.
But Fiorina questioned the notion that her leadership wasn't working and that Hurd turned things around. "Missing a quarter is not a good thing, but a transformation is not a 90-day process," Fiorina said, "it didn't just happen in the last 12 months." Transforming HP was "like turning an oceanliner ... not a jet ski," she argued.
Original reporting by IDG News Service
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