PERFECT ENOUGH: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard
In late 2001, Hewlett-Packard shareholders were divided over a proposed buyout of computer manufacturer Compaq. Carly Fiorina, who'd been appointed HP's CEO two years earlier, had convinced most of the directors that the merger was necessary in order for the firm to remain competitive. But Walter Hewlett, son of one of the company's founders, came to believe the move was against everything the "HP Way" stood for. He drummed up support and turned the vote over the merger into a test of Fiorina's leadership. Anders, a Fast Company editor, uses this battle as the centerpiece of his account, but the book's subtitle is largely a misnomer. Although Anders recounts Fiorina's transformation from a talented executive at Lucent Technologies into one of America's most powerful female CEOs, she's only a small part of the story—and, in the long run, perhaps not the most interesting. The efforts of the second generation of Hewletts and Packards to cope with the pressure to remain loyal to the company's original vision and the multibillion-dollar legacy left by their fathers present much more compelling material. Chapters on HP's history, intended to provide a backdrop to Fiorina's fight to establish herself, overwhelm her story and reduce it to part of a recurring cycle of boardroom turbulence. Anders provides workmanlike reportage on the events, but falls short of linking it to a big picture worth caring about and never rises to offer a standout story. (Feb. 1)
Forecast:The forthcoming publication of Peter Burrows's Backfire: Carly Fiorina's High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard (Wiley), which will be reviewed in PW's Feb. 10 issue, will raise this book's profile. Expect to see joint reviews in business magazines and papers.
Release date: 01/01/2003