Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

Moderated by Andrew Nusca | September 26, 2011 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Can Meg Whitman turn around HP? Jason Hiner and Larry Dignan debate whether HP's latest CEO can fix all that ails the computing giant.

Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner

Yes she can


No way

Lawrence Dignan

Lawrence Dignan

Best Argument: No way

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Restoring business-as-usual is job one

Jason Hiner: Leo Apotheker had the wrong vision for HP and unnecessarily put the company in disarray. The HP board realized it had made a massive mistake and wisely decided to move quickly to restore order inside the company and give the public hope that HP can pull itself together.

Meg Whitman may not be the ideal CEO -- she doesn't have the enterprise IT chops -- but she was one the best options HP had available and she's smart enough to hire or retain the right lieutenants. She'll immediately bring stability and her arrival will give the company a (mostly) positive spin that it could use right now in the wake of the Mark Hurd scandal, the Apotheker disaster, and the overall missteps by the board.

It's a solid short-term move. Whether Whitman can create a vision to lead HP into the next decade remains to be seen. But, for now, restoring business-as-usual to the world's largest computer maker will be enough.

None of HP's problems are quick fixes

Larry Dignan: HP Executive Chairman Ray Lane said that Meg Whitman knows leadership, communications and IT. "Meg was both a large purchaser of information technology for the enterprise, and ran a company that depends on technology to deliver its service," said Lane.  

If only it were that easy. Amazon's Jeff Bezos buys a ton of technology too, but I'm not so sure he could run a hardware and services company. Whitman's experience screams consumer, branding and strong leadership. Only that latter part applies to HP.  

Whitman can stabilize HP, but will be hard-pressed to make it hum. She'll need the operational knowhow of key execs such as Dave Donatelli, who runs HP's enterprise server, storage and networking business. The catch is Donatelli has been passed over as CEO material twice. Whitman also has to figure out the services business.

She'll make some progress, but won't turn HP around completely. Perhaps she sets the stage to hand off to another CEO. 


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  • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

    There is nowhere but "up" for HP after a such an inept HP board and its chosen CEO. Hurd was at least certain of the direction of HP, but Apotheker was clueless, scrambling to save his job in the end, behaving like a desperate school janitor who got written up too many times. When the HP board gets together for all but 4hrs a year, screaming bloody murder at the quarterly stock report and just want a "magic bullit" CEO that can lead the company toward a strong product and services leadership position in a reasonable amount of time. The board behaves like they are on the golf couse for 364 days of the year and get upset when HP's earnings fall. They behave like the rich, aloof parents who drop their spoiled kid/ceo in private school and only check in when the principal calls. However, when one kid disappoints, the board merely adopts a new kid- so much for continuity.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

      @flyguy29<br><br>That is what I was thinking, ...but you said it so well!

      I am thinking, "None of the above" since the board will undermine her, and then replace her, probably just far enough into the renovation process to make the house unlivable!

      I actually feel sorry for her. She has been set up, and not in a good way!

      (Just my opinion.)
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
    • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

      @flyguy29 I strongly disagree with you. Hurd only knew one thing, cutting costs. He drove the company down the drain by reducing R&D, reducing collaboration, reducing the fighting spirit of employees. This only mantra was cost reduction. Actually, HP's vision at that time was cost reduction, this is how bad it was. Leo at least tried to come up with a vision, you can agree or disagree with, but it's a clear and consise vision. He could not communicate it and was unable to portray his moves with the vision in mind. There you have a point. Now, I don't know where you got that info of the board meeting for 4 hours every quarter, but that is far, very far from the truth. So, all in all, I believe HP has a vision that makes sense, give them time to execute it.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

        @christian.verstraete@... can't disagree completely, but the nail in the coffin was the 180?? change of direction - those who survived the first cut were hit on the second stroke.

        Only - where is HP vision now?
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

    Great post.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes she can
    • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

      @Accompagnatrici That was well done. You should be doing this.
      Larry Dignan
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

        @Larry Dignan
        Are you offering him your job? On the basis of saying "me too"?
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

    I dont think so. Also HP needs a transformational leader not a transactional leader. Leo was never a transformational leader, but had an agenda for that. I see the same pattern here with Meg too. She is a great transactional leader, not a transformational leader. She has charisma, but how much board would allow her to succeed in using that charisma to transform HP into success is a big question.
    Ram U
    Reply Vote I'm for No way
  • Meg is a celebrity CEO

    I foresee Meg having the same issue as Leo: Leo was very successful at SAP, where he made a mint selling software and services. He gets the helm at HP and tries to use the winning formula: software and services. I wouldn't bet against Meg doing something similar and trying to fix HP by turning it into eBay.

    Whoever takes the CEO spot can learn everything they need to know in 30 days - spend 15 of those days answering the phone for consumer tech support, and spend the other 15 answering the phone for server tech support. That'll provide Meg - or whoever - a better idea as to what's broken than any stack of reports the executive VP's will give her.

    Reply Vote I'm for No way
    • RE: Great Debate: Can Whitman turn around HP?

      are you serious? answering the t/s line *might* be indicative of 'what's broken' but it surely won't show how or if to fix it. nor does that cover all of HP's woes at this time.
      would you check the air in your car tires for assurance that the engine is fine?
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided