Carly and HP’s employees

Two articles on MIT’s TechnologyReview talk about how most HP employees detested Carly Fiorina:

Carly’s Way
A Research Scientist from HP’s Imaging Systems Labs talks of how Carly killed HP’s research infrastructure because of her obsession with the “bottom line” and quarter-to-quarter results. What it’s done, he says, is to hurt HP’s competitiveness in the long run, and its ability to hire top-notch technical talent.

The latter part of the article, where he talks about the results of overall decline in research investment in the U.S., is particularly interesting:

Profit is every CEO’s major focus. Research almost always benefits an entire industry more than any particular company. And research doesn’t have immediate results.

Sometimes it doesn’t have the results that CEOs want. You invent a product that has a longer life-cycle, that doesn’t need constant refills or upgrades. Research is expensive and unpredictable. Things that today’s business world frowns on.

New technology typically has a five-year development cycle. The U.S. technology business stopped being serious about research in 2000 and the results are showing now.

People have a little more money but there’s nothing they want to buy. There’s nothing that makes you say, ‘Wow.” Ten years ago I was seeing something interesting every month, but now we’re touting bloated software and cute case designs as innovation.

The damage to HP and the U.S. technology industry at large may already be irreversible. If we start investing today and let our engineers play we might have something exciting to show people in 2010. That’s a long time to wait for the next big wow.

To me, this rabid fixation on short-term profits is a bigger threat than outsourcing — it is killing our ability to make astonishing things.

IBM remains the only company to continue to nurture and fund industrial research at such a HUGE scale. IBM’s 8 research labs are second to none. No other organisation – not Sun, not Microsoft, certainly not HP – can boast of a research culture of the kind we have. No wonder we’ve dominated the number of patents granted every year for the last 12 years. No wonder an IBM fellow like Dr. Charles Bennet of T. J. Watson Research Labs finds mention as a “pioneer” even in fiction novels like Michael Crichton’s “Timeline”.

Carly’s Gone. HP Celebrates.
Even as an IBMer, this is unpleasant reading. The article begins with:

Just after the official announcement came down that CEO Carly Fiorina would be sacked, corks were popped and bottles were opened.

All shapes and sizes of skeletons have come tumbling out of the closet now that Fiorina’s left the company. This article provides insight into how bad relations were between line workers and upper management, and how her tenure as CEO has left HP a demoralised company.

I bet the strategy mandarins at our Big Blue are licking their lips – their job just got a lot easier!