Saturday, 1 October 2011

Failure is the new Black

Leo Apotheker is reputed to have walked way from the mess he created at HP with a cool $10m in compensation. Not bad for around a year's incredibly poor work.
HP's share price plummeted around 45% under his watch and he presided over one of the biggest balls ups in Corporate history in his, and his team's, handling of the potential sale of the mammoth PSG division. Oh and then there was the whole volte face thing and withdrawal of the TouchPad and WebOs tablet woes. And now it seems Palm is up for grabs again after all that wasted money, while the potential deal for Autonomy doesn't look healthy either.
On the face of it, Apotheker couldn't have done a worse job. Yet he was paid far more in that short tenure than he would have ever earned had he succeeded. One might even postulate that this guy was so clever that he knew there was no gain in being successful but there was plenty to be earned by failing - quickly and disastrously.
He joins a long line of Corporate and sporting serial failures who thrive on failing spectacularly and quickly, getting massive rewards and then moving on to the next botch job. It's the new in thing and it seems you become more 'successful' if you fail. Just ask his predecessor at HP, who should know himself.
Down in the trenches at HP, the average employee had to work hard to achieve their quotas and commissions - there is no reward for failure. But at the top, in the rarified atmosphere of the Boardroom, there are rewards aplenty for lack of success - no, abject and utter failure is better.
Such reward schemes aren't taught at Harvard, and they aren't taught outside either yet they have become the vogue in major Corporations and sports. You might have thought that HP would have learnt by now, after all they have gone through more CEOs than the average call girl - oops, let's not go there. Yet they puckered up and kissed another frog.
And there was probably a spectacular fee for the clot who hired Apotheker. Some cliquey, bespoke headhunter who negotiated a fat sign on fee when Apotheker had already buggered up at SAP. Really, you couldn't make this rubbish up.
The new Corporate culture of fast failure is very much in. Shareholders put up with it and Boards get away with it. The rewards for the astute failure are amazing.
We may all sit and wonder why we can't have some of it, as surely when it comes to plotting failure it must be easy - as Yosser Hughes would put it, 'I could do that.'. But to be as good at it as Apotheker, you need more than sheer nerve. You need brains. Or was he really just as incompetent as you and I?
Ah well, it's the reason he's up there earning the big bucks and we're down here grovelling for a pay rise.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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