Why HP Really Needs A CEO Succession Plan

Meg WhitmanHP CEO Meg Whitman

Photo: AP

HP has a leadership problem. While the company is full of talented people, it has done little to mentor them over its troubled decade to become executives, insiders say.When we asked a random sample of a dozen HP employees to name the 10 up-and-coming executives, we were shocked at the reaction. Blank stares. None of the rank and file could list a single person (although one did tell us that he was happy Marc Andreessen was on the board).

“I’ve tried to think about who I would consider special but really anyone who has a great deal of talent generally gets frustrated and leaves. For years they never promoted from within so long before someone got the experience they needed to really become great, the person left,” one employee explained.

Another said, “Hmmm, let’s see. 10 divided by 325,000 is 0.003%. Sorry, I don’t think anyone qualifies as a ‘Top 0.003 Percenter’ at HP these days! I certainly haven’t met them.”

Still another told us: “I cannot point to anyone currently in HP who is an up-and-comer due to the fact that HP has hired so many industry veteran people from the outside. So it is hard to tell if HP has any home grown talent we are grooming.”

We asked recent ex-HP exec Phil McKinney whether the executive bench was really this bare. He agreed and told us that CEO Meg Whitman ought to do everyone a favour and “announce a succession plan.”

“It’s a problem,” he explained. “One of the things that HP cut, which I was always very against, was the training budget and tuition reimbursement programs. One of the things that I’ve been fairly vocal about is that the next CEO needs to come from inside of HP.¬† If Meg stays five years, or eight years, the person who takes her seat needs to be someone from inside of HP,” he says.

If Whitman stays long enough, Bill Veghte or Dave Donatelli could be possibilities, McKinney says. But they are still new enough to the company today to be viewed as outsiders by many long-term HP employees.

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