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What Was Mark Hurd Thinking?

Posted by Larry Doyle on August 9, 2010 3:39 PM |

High school kids do stupid things all the time. With little appreciation of the risks involved, stupid pranks or immature behavior can often have serious consequences. Hopefully by the time the high schooler heads off to college, the days of immaturity are in the rear view mirror. What is the lesson many high schoolers learn? Actions have consequences.

This lesson is certainly not restricted to those in high school. That said, how is it that a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, in this case Hewlett-Packard’s Mark Hurd, can engage in behaviors that lend themselves to those of high school sophomores?

There are real lessons in this professional soap opera for all of us. What do those lessons include? The Wall Street Journal addresses them in writing, Mark Hurd Neglected to Follow H-P Code,  

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s standards of business conduct suggest that employees pose themselves a simple test to decide whether an action is appropriate: “Before I make a decision, I consider how it would look in a news story,” the document states.

Mark Hurd, who was fired Friday as the computer giant’s chief executive, would appear to have failed that test.

Directors’ trust began to weaken after the investigation began in late June, when a woman working in a contract role for H-P sent Mr. Hurd a letter alleging sexual harassment, people familiar with the matter said.

The woman identified herself Sunday as Jodie Fisher, an actress who appeared in several R-rated movies as well as in 2007 on the NBC reality show “Age of Love,” which paired older women suitors with a younger man. In a statement released by her attorney, Gloria Allred, Ms. Fisher said she was “saddened” that Mr. Hurd lost his job. “That was never my intention.” She said she and Mr. Hurd didn’t have a sexual relationship.

Although the tabloids would certainly be interested in knowing the nature of Mark Hurd’s relationship with Ms. Fisher, I have no interest. I am more intrigued by the mental state of Mr. Hurd? What was he thinking? How could he possibly think that developing a questionable relationship with a female contractor might not lead to an unpleasant and unceremonious ending? For somebody who was regarded as a world class CEO, how could he take such enormous personal risks? 

Mr. Hurd, in a statement Friday, said: “As the investigation progressed, I realized there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at H-P and which have guided me throughout my career.” 

Talk about crash and burn!! Mark Hurd’s lack of decorum and integrity is truly a lesson for all of us in humility, fidelity,and forthrightness.

Hurd may be capable of rebounding but right now he has classified himself in the category of world class dopes.


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  • fred


    I understand the company spin, but when I heard the news late Friday, my gut told me something else may have been going on here.

    A close friend once told me, “When you are hired as an “outsider” executive you are given so many beans, when the beans are gone, so are you”.

    Mr Hurst was an outsider brought in to fix things at a broken company, he did the job, but his style did not mesh with the insiders at HPQ, in fact, many probably opposed him from the start and have been undermining him since his arrival.

    Let’s see what develops, maybe nothing…he got a nice payday, HPQ now believes they can carry on his initiatives without him, it appears no criminal charges are pending. His name and reputation have been smeared, will he fight back or laugh all the way to the bank and retire to Geneva?

    • fred

      Are we seeing the real reason Mark Hurd was shown the door, a change in strategic direction?

      HPQ is really handling this badly, at some point, someone will get the PC business at a real good price, probably the Chinese.

      What’s for sale next, the printer business?

      This is MBA 101, sell low margin expand into high margin; the problem, hardware is such a big driver of profits that it’s going to be a bumpy road.

      I would have preferred HPQ to adopt the AAPL model (rev growth) rather than the IBM model (financial engineering).
      OK, so maybe they couldn’t beat AAPL in the consumer mkt, but what about expanding into commercial mobile?

      Vertical integration allows you to create a vision then go for it because you control both the HW and SW. For example, AAPL had a vision, would they have been able to achieve that vision without HW control, I don’t think so.

  • mountainaires

    I find it sort of frustrating that no one has spelled out exactly what Mr. Hurd did. Did he pressure the woman to have sex with him? Did he make inappropriate jokes, comments to her? She wrote a letter alleging “sexual harrassment.” But she didn’t think he should be fired? What happened?

  • Bill

    In the vernacular, it’s called thinking with your little head.

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