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February 10, 2003

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Perfect Enough

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:19 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard, by George Anders, Portfolio, $24.95 Hardcover, January 2003, ISBN 1591840031, 288 pages
Hewlett-Packard grew up as an old-school, old fashioned family business with strong values and integrity. So much so that their value as a tech company was compromised at timesproducts had to be perfect before they could be shipped out of the plant. By the time some products made it out of the shop, they were already obsolete, or the market rush had already passed it by. Then comes Carly Fiorina. She changed the whole philosophy of HP without sacrificing its integrity.
George Anders book is a fast-paced, detailed story of Carly Fiorinas induction into HP and her later transformation of the company. Fiorina, who had great success at AT&T and its spin-off company Lucent, came into the stiff, old fashioned corporate environment at HP and found herself warmly welcomed by the board. They desperately wanted her to change the company aroundgive it the youth and passion the company had been missing for so long. She immediately went to work, giving whirlwind speeches to the employees and asking them for things like lists of the Ten Stupidest Things We Do. She went to work on reducing brand clutter and created one strong brand based on the companys culture and history of extreme quality and performance. Soon after, Fiorina made changes to the HP gene pool by changing the kinds of people who were hired and the kinds of people that were let go. Most of the changes were made in the top 300 executive level positions. The next step was restructuring the board room, reducing the number of directors from 14 to 10, eliminating many of the Hewlett and Packard family members from their positions. By early 2000, stock went up by 40% since Fiorinas 1999 arrival.
Her seemingly small decisions also helped to change the company. When the picture of the board of directors was to be taken, she asked everyone to dress casually; instead of standing in a straight row, she had them stand in clusters of three. In her cluster, she stood with chairman Dick Hackborn and board member Walter Hewlett, one of founder Dave Hewletts sons. Her representation of herself as being with the company and the family was an important message to convey to the employees and the world.
Fiorinas biggest feat was the HP merger with Compaq. Not only did she have to negotiate with the people at Compaq, but she had to face harsh internal scrutiny from Walter Hewlett. The skills Fiorina had to use in this battle really showed her value and worth as an exceptional leader, strategist, and over-all human being.
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n this book, readers will find out how Fiorinas motto of perfect enough led HP to actually become a virtually perfect, innovative, thriving company. She is an awe-inspiring leader who we could all learn something from.