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Is HP Schizophrenic?

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HP can't seem to make up its mind lately. Rotating CEOs, purchasing technologies just to dump them shortly after, dropping profitable businesses, spending tons of money to focus on new highly competitive businesses; it makes me wonder what's next. Let's look at a timeline of some of HP's recent headlines.

April 2010 - Purchase Palm and WebOS

August 2010 - CEO Mark Hurd Resigns Amid Scandal

March 2011 - Plan to Adopt WebOS Everywhere ("on every computer it sells by 2012")

July 2011 - Launch WebOS Tablet

August 2011 - Drop WebOS Tablet, Drop WebOS, Consider Leaving PC Business, Plan to Buy into Enterprise Software Business for 10.3 Billion

September 2011 - Fires CEO Leo Apotheker

I find it amusing that the stocks are up almost 7% the day they drop CEO Leo Apotheker. Considering all the news in August I can't say I'm surprised, but how often can HP replace their CEO, and how can the company settle on a direction if a new driver is put in charge every year? At this point I have to wonder: Does the board of directors know what they want out of the business? Are they incapable of choosing a CEO to lead them? What's the problem? At this rate we can expect HP to announce it will be getting out of the printer ink business so they can focus on making a new search engine.

So, out of curiosity, I decided to look into HP's board of directors. I didn't get very far before starting to understand the problem. According to the HP website, only six of the fourteen members of the board of directors were on the board before last year. Two of those joined the board in 2009. Only one current board member was on the board before 2005. No wonder HP's focus seems to be shifting. With 6 new board members just this year, it suddenly makes sense that HP seems to be changing direction quickly. No wonder HP has changed its mind about WebOS. The decision to purchase Palm (and WebOS) was two CEOs earlier and half the Board of Directors has been replaced since then. The problem is that the new board hasn't implemented a strategy yet. All they seem to know is they didn't like the last CEO's plan. Hopefully they can pull together a strategy and move forward with it.

The answer, it seems, is that HP is suffering from multiple personalities. The people steering the ship are changing too fast for any major decision or direction to stick. The board of directors needs to stabilize and a CEO who can lead the company long term needs to be chosen. People tend to focus on the guy at the top, it's important to remember that there are almost always other voices involved in a decision. Until HP's leadership stops fluctuating, we can't expect to see any focus.



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