OPINION: HP (again) shows us how not to do it

Run a business, that is

HP management has not been good to the company over the last few years. One would have to do a lot of searching to find a management team that has so thoroughly messed up in the court of public opinion.

Starting with HP wiretapping its own board members back in 2006 and continuing at least until HP's decision a month ago to explore "strategic alternatives" for its Personal Systems Group -- and announcing that before figuring out what they will actually do -- HP has done an almost perfect job of demonstrating how not to run a business.

BACKGROUND: Shades of Blue reflected in HP's dramatic reshuffling

Along the line there was the very messy firing of HP CEO Mark Hurd and then, seemingly to ensure that the story stayed in the press, suing him when he got hired by Oracle.

Most recently, HP canceled its TouchPad iPad wannabe after only a few weeks on the market.

In this long line of dumb moves, the announcement about HP's PC manufacturing Personal Systems Group is maybe the dumbest and the business that would have been the easiest to do right. When IBM decided to get out of the PC business it waited until it had a buyer lined up to let the world know about the move. In sharp contrast, HP announced that it would be pondering what to do with its PC business until at least the end of the year and provided no hints as to the division's future other than to say that it "may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction." What IT managers in their right mind are now going to develop major plans that depend on HP hardware or software?

HP has managed to put a $42 billion-a-year business at risk by willfully, it seems, ignoring how its announcement was going to be seen by its customers.

If you are in corporate management please do use HP as an anti-role model. It can be easy to blow the credibility of a company and very hard to earn it back. HP has been trying again and again to destroy its credibility, at least for common sense. The recent moves strike at the heart of a company's future -- they make potential customers think strongly about alternative products.

Another company whose management also tried very hard to destroy its image and future seems to have finally gotten to the end of its road.

The SCO Group lost its latest, and maybe last, court appeal of a string of negative decisions concerning its attempt to extort billions of dollars from IBM and Linux users. This has been a very long and slimy road -- one that contained at least as many self-inflicted wounds on the part of the SCO Group as does the HP saga. But it may finally be over.

Disclaimer: Both the HP and SCO Group histories seem to be perfect subjects for Harvard Business School Case Studies -- students could be shown a world of bad business decisions and the results of those decisions -- but I have no idea if the Business School wants to tell such depressing stories. Thus, the above studies in ineptitude are my own.

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Scott Bradner

Network World
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