A Strong Strategy, a Clear Vision
When Fiorina joined HP, she found a very slow culture that did not affect much the competitive market. She would change using the tools and power at her disposal. She had a strategy to do this. The first was to look for a company, a smaller one but with a faster culture, which would eventually influence HP with its energy. She landed a number of options, evaluated them and settled for Compaq. At the time she was going for a merger with Compaq, the latter was doing well with its fast "Internet" culture (Tabrizi, 2015: par. 3), but did not enjoy economies scale to enable it to match the competition in the market. Therefore, Compaq was bringing to the table a faster culture, which was required for future growth and ability to adapt to changes in a dynamic and competitive market. On the other hand, HP was enjoying the larger market, stronger brand image and stable key financials that would definitively culminate into a great strides had it been augmented with a stronger, faster and transformative culture. This was the great strategy, and vision Fiorina had for her company during her tenure.
Failure at Implementation
Despite her great strategy and a stronger vision, it was unfortunate that Fiorina could not manage to realize her goals with HP. She did not manage to transform the paperwork into a reality. The question to ask at this point is where did she miss the point? The answer lies in how she managed the most aspect of this transformative agenda: change management. Also, Fiorina missed it at the choice of the merger and her failure to work the talk through the implementation of her strategy.
Lack of Change Management Leadership
Managing change is a very important aspect of corporate management in the 21st century. Transformation begins with managing the most important resource of any company - the people. The people must be informed about the change about to be effected in the company; change agents must be identified to initiate the change and most importantly, people's buy-in must be given priority in the issue. As for Fiorina, it seems she never appeared to realize how important this was going to be and how this actually build or ruin her great strategy and strong vision.
When the workforce does not share in the vision, it remains the owners solely. Thus, the first move would be to bring onboard change agents, build a coalition using this team to initiate change and provide resources for this very important preambles. As John Kotter notes in his 8-step model of change, the first two steps of creating urgency and building a coalition are the most important and a lot of resources should be spent on these steps ( "Kotter's 8-Step Change Model: Implementing Change Powerfully and Successfully|Mindtools.com"). Otherwise, it would be worthless having the strategy in the first place as a bumpy ride would be waiting ahead. If any manager understands that today, that should be Fiorina, because she had a good dose of a bumpy ride with her strategy at HP. She made a very awkward assumption that the workforce wanted to change and would obviously be part of it, even when they knew nothing about and were clearly a blind lot being led somewhere they were yet to be told. These are the consequences of a dismissive character and controlling personality at worst.
When change never became an agenda and a vision shared during a period when the transformation was what HP required most, the change aspect was never to be realized, and this was a major setback in Fiorina's leadership at HP. As a result, the strategy for growth and transformation faced resistance from the very people it was meant for, not because they were inherently against it, but rather because either they were caught unawares, they feared for the uncertainties that may befall them, or because it was never their agenda, but someone else's which they were being forced to buy into (Spencer, 2031). In short, the organization was not ready for change, and they would do anything to bring the strategy down, so long as they were never made part of it.
Poor Choice at Merger
It is no doubt a merger would work for the then shaky HP, but again it would only work if it was done right. According to the CEO's analysis, what HP required was a little stir to its rather slow culture to tap into opportunities for future growth. She looked at the market, evaluated options and landed on Compaq as the best firm to help put some energy into HP's slow culture. But once again, she was wrong. Compaq was never the right company to do this because it never was what it seemed to Fiorina. Rather, Compaq was a loser in market value and was only going to add more problems to HP's existing challenges. The envisioned merger was only viable if it had a chance to create value for shareholders, which was never the case here. Compaq at the time of the merger in 2002 was having similar or even worse financial struggles as HP (Tabrizi, 2015). Therefore, a merger between the two would be a big loser for the shareholder, and as such, it was not going to be the best policy at the implementation of a progressive transformation strategy as noted by Behnam Tabrizi in his book Rapid Transformation (2007). It is no wonder HP's shares plunged by 65% following the merger (Tabrizi, 2015).
Much Time Talking with Little Implementation
It is not enough to come up with a plan; it is more important to put the plan its practical shape. Fiorina had real plans, plenty of them during her tenure at HP, but at implementation HP obviously have a different kind of leadership, most probably that of Fiorina's successor Mark Hurd. This was a leadership that led the way and while doing so, actively involved relevant stakeholders. Unfortunately, Fiorina spent much of her time talking about the strategy in her bold, charismatic and glamorous character but apparently everything that she talked about during her tenure was however not implemented. During her tenure at HP between 1999 and 2005, the company was engineer-dominated, most of these engineers being male (Tabrizi, 2015). She had to spend a lot of time to connect with senior leadership, middle-level managers, and low-level employees, which she rarely did. This was enough sign of lack of the will to implement a strategy, a clear path to failure.
Lessons Learnt and Recommendations
There are not one or two takeaways from this review of transformative leadership that are at its worst. Some are discussed below: First, change management is imperative in transformative leadership. There is no use in planning for change when in that plan, the people aspect of it is not included. This is clear from the preceding. As CEO and a leader with a transformative agenda for a fragile company, Fiorina had failed from the beginning to connect with employees and the business leadership at HP. As such she never got their buy-in or support for her initiatives, which were then deemed to fail. It would be recommendable to bring on board change agents such as Mr. Hurd, who did some good work to reinstate the company after Fiorina got fired in 2005. She never identified such talents as Hurd because she never spent the time to connect with the employees (Tabrizj, 2015). It is surprising that the little success HP would attain during Hurd's tenure were outcomes of the implementation of a strategy designed by Fiorina herself.
Similarly, transformative leadership also requires proactive leadership that involves a decision-making process through a thorough assessment of all consequences of choices and not barely a few appealing aspects of a decision (Spencer, 2013). While making the decision for the merger, it seems Fiorina's decision was largely influenced by her quest for rapid change and this, according to her instincts, lie in the fast "Internet" culture at Compaq. She never considered consequences of key financials of the merger choice to shareholders' interests (Tabrizi, 2007). It follows that decision-making should be approached as a multi-faceted aspect of management that requires many minds pooled together. Fiorina ought to have worked together with other executives in this crucial decision.
Kotter's 8-Step Change Model: Implementing Change Powerfully and Successfully. Mindtools.com. Retrieved November 19, 2016, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm
Spector, B. (2013). Implementing organizational change: Theory into practice (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Tabrizi, B. N. (Sept 25, 2015). Carly Fiorina's legacg as CEO of Hewlett Packard. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved November 27 2016, from https://hbr.org/2015/09/carly-fiorinas-legacy-as-ceo-of-hewlett-packard
Tabrizi, B. N. (Oct 22, 2007). Rapid Transformation: A 90-Day Plan for Fast and Effective Change(Ist Ed). Harvard Business Review Press.
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