The problem for HP and doomed CEO Leo Apotheker runs much deeper than the obvious, including a sagging stock price, TouchPad tablet and WebOS failure, and a damaged brand image.
The simple cultprit has been corporate indecisiveness, which has run amok throughout every problem the company has faced. That's why Apotheker is apparently out of a job and Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO is in. But even that very move smacks of indecisiveness, since Apotheker has only been on the job for one year.
But leadership is charged with cultivating corporate deciveness, and that's where Apotheker, HP's board and the corporation in general has failed, tarnishing the long-respected brand.
Apotheker's leadership never rang true with analysts in large part because he was known for what can best be called wishy washiness. he backtracked on promises to integrate mobile software into devices, he said the company's new TouchPad tablet was great, but in mere weeks he killed it off. He said the company was exploring getting out of the PC business, but then HP talked like it didn't really mean it.
The list could go on, but one can easily get the gist. One analyst characterized it best in the past month, saying that every time Apotheker got on the call the company's stock traded down.
Because he was viewed as wishy-washy he carried little clout.
So while some say Apotheker is being ousted because HP's stock plunged 50 percent on his watch don't believe the hype. Apotheker is being ousted because he couldn't make up his mind.
Consider the ongoing story of GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. That company's stock has languished in a decade under Immelt's leadership yet despite mistakes and having to take over a company and a stock that was high-flying beyond reasonable expectations after the retirement of Jack Welch he's managed to survive through relative consistency.
In fact the only time Immelt came under severe scrutiny is when he became flippant -- suggesting at the height of the 2008 financial crisis that GE's finance division was fine when it wasn't, and also suggesting at the same time that GE's dividend wouldn't be cut but then it was.
That got him into some trouble. Since then, he's worked to be less flippant and more reliable, and GE's stock has moved ahead from its lowest of lows, albeit slowly.
But while Apotheker's leadership style was more flim flam than bim bam, he wasn't really given a chance since HP's board has shown the same type of blowing-in-the-wind reaction. They are hoping Whitman was be salve for all wounds, but that may not be the case.
Whitman isn't a hardware person yet she's being handed the reigns, apparently, at a flailing hardware company. Go figure. But even if her leadership is not the finest in specific strategy both she, the board, and the company will be best served if she merely becomes reliable -- through either the good or the bad.
Unreliability has been HP's downfall. Until that is fixed, the company will likely continue to struggle.