Before we dig in to Hewlett-Packard's pressing challenges and its enormous opportunities, here's a quick thought on the individual who's put HP in the blazing global spotlight it would much rather have avoided. (For a provocative opinion on whether Hurd should have been forced out, check out my colleague Alex Wolfe's In Cutting Off Hurd, Is HP Spiting Its Face?.)
It's easy—and certainly not inappropriate—to wonder what in the hell type of madness drove Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd to wallow in the various types of sordid behavior that led to his humiliating resignation last week.
When I heard about it, two things popped immediately into my head: A guy who made over $27 million last year destroyed his career and possibly his family by fudging expense reports?!? And then Shakespeare's immortal and all too accurate summation of the human condition: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
But since each of us has plenty of our own faults to deal with, the less said here about Hurd's personal demons, the better—except to wish his wife and family the strength and grace they'll need to overcome this excruciating ordeal.
Rather, let's explore the urgent questions swirling around HP at the beginning of what will certainly become a new era for a proud but jolted company that's experienced a blend of successes and incompletes during its former CEO's 5-year reign.
Framing those questions is my belief that HP—even without last week's shocking resignation—has reached a point in its development requiring a significantly different type of leadership than what the former CEO provided since taking over from Carly Fiorina in 2005.
Give the former CEO his due: he hammered into HP unprecedented levels of operational and financial discipline, reinvigorated the company's brand and future prospects with the acquisitions of EDS and Mercury, and substantially broadened its addressable market with the recent acquisitions of Palm and 3Com.
(For more analysis and insight on HP's strategy and Hurd, please check out our extensive "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)
But in pulling together those building blocks without also creating the final blueprint for the proposed superstructure, the former CEO revealed the #1 threat HP faces: