Welsh, who was chief executive of General Electric for 20 years, lambasted the HP board for churning through three leaders in 11 years, saying leadership development was "was very low on the priority of ... that company," according to the Wall Street Journal.
"The Hewlett-Packard board has committed sins over the last 10 years. They have not done one of the primary jobs of a board, which is to prepare the next generation of leadership."
Welsh has an interest in this; for the last four years he's been teaching a leadership class at MIT's Sloan School of Management to 30 MBA students.
"They end up blowing up the CEO's and don't have anyone else in mind to come in. Where the hell was the leadership development? Who are these board members?" he said.
One of the most surprising aspects of the Apotheker announcement was the lack of picks from within the company. After the changes of the last decade the board was expected to promote from within.
HP's internal team had several seemingly strong candidates, most noticeably Ann Livermore, whose experience in the enterprise sector and impeccable HP credentials would have reassured the board but was passed over for the post in 1999.
"The problem with Livermore, who was otherwise the most serious candidate, was that she was reaching the age limit of the company and also has serious health problems," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told Sleuth.
"[Todd] Bradley was the heir apparent to Mark Hurd, but was the wrong guy for the job in so many ways. Typically when you fire a chief executive for ethics problems you get rid of his protégés as a matter of course."
Enderle speculated that HP's board would have liked to hire former Oracle president Charles Phillips but couldn't for contractual reasons, suggesting he had been offered a substantial financial incentive not to join.
Apple's chief operating officer Tim Cook had also been touted but an approach was leaked and the company "circled the wagons and drew him back in," he said.
Sleuth's personal view is that Welsh has a point. Up until the Fiorina appointment HP had spent half a decade growing by being good at things, notably picking up engineering ideas and running with them. Wall Street may have hated the uncertainty but HP's 'casting bread across the waters' approach to business was successful in the long term.
Part of this was also linked to the loyalty and dedication the company inspired in its employees. When Steve Wozniak came up with the design for what became the first Apple computer he offered it to HP, his employers, before going into business with Steve Jobs - and only then after the company had turned him down.
In the last decade HP has slashed its R&D budget, pretty much abandoned its software division and has lost the goodwill of all staff and the employment of more than a few of its best. It has no-one to blame more than its senior management.
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