It really does roll downhill…


Leadership: a very fine line between love and nausea…

I got a few of emails today from people who claim you can’t only blame Hurd for HP’s current malaise, moreover it’s the whole HP leadership that should be held accountable.  

I say it’s all about the leader and the team he or she molds that drives the vision and instills passion down through their organization.

Today’s winning services firms are being shaped by their leaders:

Accenture’s Bill has charisma, is pragmatic, and has had the guts to bring in new blood and thinking to constantly break new ground; Cognizant’s  Frank’s incredible energy, youthful thinking and intellect defines his firm; Genpact’s Pramod relentlessly drives his firm on with a consistent vision; Infosys’ Kris has a determination to shape the industry; while Wipro’s Suresh has stuck to his guns to deliver his own brand of global sourcing to clients.  These are just some examples of today’s services leaders who define agendas for their firms and are prepared to adapt to change.  And one other thing – if a large deal was on the line, they would be personally involved.

Several other providers have forgotten their personalities, are lumbering along trying to meet certain metrics, but seem to be following trends, as opposed to leading and defining them.

Now, none of these providers are perfect – they all have their warts (hell, we all have warts), but what they do have are leaders with a vision and an understanding of how to position their firms in unique times like these, where there is no “set” way of doing things.   Today, there is no rule book.  Instead there is passion and energy, creativity and innovation.  Moreover, services companies need to forge an identity to survive.

Hurd’s challenge was that HP was too big and too focused on hardware.  He needed 5% annual growth, which was about $6-7B a year.  He would much rather sell a hardware device to a business or a retailer with a service contract attached, than sell a more strategic and “sticky” business process contract.

HP doesn’t have time to make a poor, or even an average, decision.  The firm needs a vision, it needs to detail specifically how it intends to service its customers, and how it intends to help them find new thresholds of performance.  It needs a leader who can step in to re-energize the firm, set out its agenda, nurture the cash-cows, while investing in the growth opportunities.  The industry is watching which direction HP takes – and this one’s crucial.

Posted in : Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), IT Outsourcing / IT Services, Outsourcing Heros



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  1. […] It really does roll downhill…Horses for Sources (blog) […]

  2. Phil,

    You hit the nail on the head with your assessment of HP’s BPO business. We were up and coming and had quite a good story (for those who we could get access to listen), but disinvestment and lack of leadership squandered a good thing.

  3. Phil,

    You are so right. Companies are defined by their leaders themselves, the way they lead, and the people they bring in to challenge them to constantly strive to keep ahead of their industries. I doubt Mr Hurd scored well in any of those departments,


  4. Thanks for this insight Phil.

    Companies need to kill off their YAK herds of level 2 and level 3 leaders. You know the ones that always think politically and defensively with their backsides in and horns out. Hopefully, we will see HP re-emerge with client passion, and market enthusiasm instead of as experts in surviving quarterly reorganizations and bandage control as they practice the ‘death of a thousand cuts’ dance.

    It took Mark Hurd to convert Carly’s vision and decision to buy Compaq into a strategic asset. Mark really understood and passionately drove the needs of a product based business. The HP success needs to be someone who can sustain the product groups while passionately engage and convert the service mamoth that is dying on the tundra into the lionese predator it COULD have become.

    While I no longer work for HP, I think I speak for many of us that left during the infection of malaise the EDS leadership brought to the business. Good luck HP’ers. Take advantage of this chance to emerge as a truly strong services competitor instead of becomining an interesting case study writen up in the next great business leadership book.

  5. There seems to be general agreement that Hurd was doing HP a lot of good. I wonder if anyone analyzed which the better of the two paths was : fire a leader who was delivering and entail the risk of bringing in a new CEO, or warn the leader who was delivering and let him continue delivering.

    After all, he did not have sexual relations with the mystery female contractor… 🙂

  6. @Lucky: I think the general concensus has been more along the lines that Hurd stabilized with firm when it needed it and did the job he was required to do. However, the board seems to have used recent “transgressions” to oust him as it feared “moving back to the old HP”. My take is that they could have easily buried the indiscretions had they wanted him to stay on. Another common perception was that Hurd is a hardware guy, not a services visionary. Whomever takes over will have the challenge of trying to be the latter… in a hardware/products culture. Not going to be an easy task,


  7. @Phil: You mentioned fear… I’m reading that the board was terrorized from two sides: APCO spooked them about retaining Hurd while Larry Ellison frightened them about firing him.

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