1. Do Your Homework
2. Pace Yourself
3. Genuflect When Necessary
4. Build Allies
5. Don’t Paint Targets on Your BackOne or more of those factors may have been in play at HP. Based on the reporting around Apotheker’s case, though, it sounds like one of the big reasons he got the boot because of the number one reason managers fail – ineffective communications skills and practices. In his short time with the company, he set in motion an $11 billion acquisition of a British software company, announced that HP was probably going to get out of the personal computer business and killed their answer to the iPad just a couple of months after it was introduced. All of his stakeholders – customers, employees, Wall Street and, ultimately, his board - were confused and worried by the sudden changes. There are a lot of things that Apotheker could have done to strengthen his communications around his plan. He might have started with three simple questions:
What?: i.e. What are we doing and why are doing it? What’s the picture of what the future will look like after we do what we’re going to do?
So What?: This is the “What’s in it for you?” question. The answers will vary for each target audience. While all of the answers should be built around the future strategy picture, you have to consider the differences between stakeholders and address their unique concerns in answering, “So what?”
Now What?: This is where things got really crazy at HP. The changes and announcements were coming so fast and furious that no one knew what was coming next. When you’re the leader communicating change, you’ve got to do all you can to give people the sense that the changes hang together in some coherent way.So that’s my analysis. What’s yours? If you’re following the HP story, what’s your take? Even if you’re not, what’s your take on what leaders need to do to avoid super fast failures?