Thursday, February 13, 2014

HP Meg Whitman Goal driven Transformational Leadership

Having seen the leadership styles and failures from three CEO’s in the past 5 years [exhibit 2], employees within HP faced uncertainty and lacked clear vision, goal and lost trust in our leaders. HP, the innovator in technology was sinking and then came Meg Whitman; Forbes quotes “Meg Whitman Jolts HP as Its Reluctant Savior". In this article I am going to draw some of the best practices I learned from Meg and how her leadership style brought HP back on track.
Clear Strategic Vision: Unlike the past leaders who focused only on stake holders Meg understood that HP’s strength is in its 350,000 employees. She quickly articulated a clear long-term vision [exhibit 3] with a timeline for fixing and told us it’s a “multi-year journey” and we are at step 2 in the 4-point process .Meg, for all her accomplishments, is a real person. So we began with the end in mind and our vision was “Focus on outcomes the right way”.
Build Clarity and Empower by leading:. Meg is regarded as warm, honest and her credibility is not in doubt within employees. One anecdote perfectly describes why our faith would not be misplaced is this incident. After Dell had beaten HP on the last 5 deals from Microsoft, Whitman called Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, “Tell me where we came up short, Don’t sugarcoat it. I’d like to know so that we can do better the next time.” Soon afterward Microsoft sent a multipage memo to Whitman, listing nine ways that HP had fumbled its opportunity. For Whitman the memo wasn’t an insult; it was a battle plan. She convened a war team of HP’s enterprise computing division. Our job was to figure out how to make HP more competitive. When Microsoft’s Bing bought a further $530 million of servers in January, vindication arrived. This time HP, not Dell, seized the order. Blunt, folksy and persistent is what we saw in her. She’s decisive without being abrasive, persuasive without being slick. She’s a team builder who knows that turnarounds call for repairing hundreds of small failings rather than betting everything on a miracle cure that might be a mirage. Meg during our All Employee meeting said “Run to the fire; don’t hide from it.”, this made us believe that if we were afraid of ever making a mistake, we will be paralyzed from taking action or taking even calculated risks. We believed that mistakes happen in the course of doing business and that one learns from making mistakes, we will have a more productive team. With this new way of thinking HP beat street estimates with best fiscal results and stock price jumped 22% during Meg's turn around phase.
Bring the 4 I’s: Meg during her first 6 months as CEO she had 305 one-on-one meetings with individual team leaders (CII leader style) and travelled 20 countries to meet the country Managers and the employees to understand their issues and problems .She made herself more available and also opened an employee forum where she and her management team answer and give guidance to some of the questions posted by HP employees. She took the CEO position with a $1 base salary. We saw her as a truly transformational leader with Individualized consideration, Motivation through inspiration. She was regarded as a leader who respected individual employees and put follower’s needs above her own and showed an Idealized influence characteristic which is an important characteristic of a transformational leader. This in turn increased HP’s employee retention rate tremendously when compared to previous years.

Limitations: The leader's values may not be in alignment with the values of followers, and this may lead to a conflict of interest. This may destroy the trust that followers had built on the leader. The Leader should constantly show progress and improvement towards the long term goal otherwise employees may lose their confidence .The Leader of this type are generally Risk seekers , so there is a possibility of failure and leader should have a plan in case of failure.

Leadership Turn the Ship Around Review

Often, books on leadership and business create an ‘easy to follow’ roadmap for leadership success (e.g., the 10 steps to success), and suggest the process is simple if you follow their steps.  Yet, maybe leadership isn’t as easy as these books lead us to believe.  With this is mind, critique at least one aspect of David Marquet’s approach to leadership as discussed in his boot, Turn the Ship Around.  Is there one or more aspects in his approach that you find troubling, have doubt, or that you disagree with?  Explain.  Even if you don’t disagree with anything, play the devil’s advocate in identifying one aspect to critique.  Draw on any relevant knowledge from your course readings, experience, personal examples, etc. to reinforce your argument. 

David Marquet believes that a successful organization must move from the typical “leader-follower” style to the “leader-leader” way of managing people. This creates a fundamental paradigm shift in leaders need to release control of command to his/her subordinates. This approach cannot be applied in very organization because of the following limitations.
Control: To bring empowerment David releases control to individual employees but this also requires more trust and one to one relationship with the employees. David talks about how the crew members self-report when they made noises before it’s reported by sonar, this shows that it also requires high conscientious personality in the crew members. This cannot be replicated in every organization because of the unique personality and type of people David Marquet was dealing with .Navy officers score high on the big five personality measures of conscientious, openness, extraversion, Neuroticism, agreeableness and other behavioral competencies. They do what is right for the organization and for the country. In reality companies will have a mix of employees selected based on their technical skills so they lack/score low on these behavioral competencies which makes it difficult to implement David’s way of empowering people.
Autonomous team: David Marquet’s team was autonomous and he got good support from his top management. His team was isolated and he had full power and control in bringing his “leader-leader” changes. This is not possible in today’s teams which are more centralized and decisions at every level had to be communicated not just to your team but also to other external members within the organization. So there will be external opposition from outside teams and makes it difficult to bring leader-leader way of leadership.
Cultural differences and personality measures differ across countries, David’s way of empowering and bringing the leader-leader style of leadership is very difficult to implement in countries like India and china [exhibit 1]. According to hofstede’s research on the 5-D model United States rank high in terms of Individualism, uncertainty Avoidance [Appendix 1] which are some of the key traits required to implement David’s leader-leader model.
Empowerment Leadership Challenges on virtual teams: Distance Matters”, David by walking around and showing curiosity he was bringing more of Management by walking (MBW) style of leadership which cannot be done if the team members are virtual and located at distant. It’s difficult to implement MBW especially when you have your organization made up of telecommuters and people working flexible hours. So participation of these employees will be less than other employees.
Competence: David insists taking deliberate action at every step of your work. If followers are virtually located in distant and the leader works remotely then it’s difficult for them to gain control by embracing inspectors, generating solutions, communicating the intent.
David Marquet’s leadership is all about trusting, empowering, and getting out of the way of your employees to make improvements. But to accomplish this and move from the traditional leader-follower model to leader-leader model there is cost for the re-organization and there is a risk of failure if it doesn’t align with your company’s culture, personality of your employees. In a services industry like where I come from we use agile methodologies and it runs on project basis where you will not work under one manager for more than 6 months or 1 year. You are pulled into different projects based on your skills and most of them are short term contract projects. To follow David Marquet’s philosophy it works better on long run projects. It is also necessary that you work under the same team and organization for a reasonable amount of time to bring this change and see these changes. Unlike many other leadership theories, this leader-leader approach does not have a strong body of research findings to justify and support the underpinnings on which it stands so there might be unseen hidden risks with this approach.