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Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett Packard Hardcover – January 23, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In late 2001, Hewlett-Packard shareholders were divided over a proposed buyout of computer manufacturer Compaq. Carly Fiorina, who'd been appointed HP's CEO two years earlier, had convinced most of the directors that the merger was necessary in order for the firm to remain competitive. But Walter Hewlett, son of one of the company's founders, came to believe the move was against everything the "HP Way" stood for. He drummed up support and turned the vote over the merger into a test of Fiorina's leadership. Anders, a Fast Company editor, uses this battle as the centerpiece of his account, but the book's subtitle is largely a misnomer. Although Anders recounts Fiorina's transformation from a talented executive at Lucent Technologies into one of America's most powerful female CEOs, she's only a small part of the story-and, in the long run, perhaps not the most interesting. The efforts of the second generation of Hewletts and Packards to cope with the pressure to remain loyal to the company's original vision and the multibillion-dollar legacy left by their fathers present much more compelling material. Chapters on HP's history, intended to provide a backdrop to Fiorina's fight to establish herself, overwhelm her story and reduce it to part of a recurring cycle of boardroom turbulence. Anders provides workmanlike reportage on the events, but falls short of linking it to a big picture worth caring about and never rises to offer a standout story.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A riveting look at the rise and near-fall of a great American company." -- Wall Street Journal

"Anders provides a behind-the-scenes account of the battle for HP, putting the reader inside the minds of several key players." -- BusinessWeek

"Wonderful reporting . . . The book is better than ‘perfect enough’; readers will find it gripping and illuminating." -- The Globe and Mail (Toronto) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; First Edition edition (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591840031
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591840039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #770,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I've been writing about dreamers, idealists and rascals since 1981. Look for my articles and essays these days at Forbes magazine,, and the LinkedIn/Influencers program. Other writing homes over the years have included The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg View and Fast Company magazine. I've also launched a travel blog, written five books and spun out several hundred bedtime stories for our kids.

In 1997, I shared in the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. As an adult, I spent time in New York City, London, Cambridge MA and Washington DC before settling in northern California. I'm a slow but stubborn hiker. Adventures over the years have included trekking in Nepal, Peru and New Zealand, as well as making it to the top of Mt. Whitney, Mt. Fuji and Cerro Chirripo. Some of my favorite writers include Thomas Boswell for sports; William Manchester for biographies; Caroline Baum for financial commentary and Michael Craig for poker.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Charles Knox on July 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
One of my concerns about this book is its frequent depiction of Carly Fiorina as not only an excellent communicator, but a charismatic one as well. This is nonsense. She may be charming at times, but this is a charm without substance, and her public communications are often both trite and insulting to important customers, potential customers or potential employees. If author Anders' had analyzed some of her speeches in depth, I think he would have come to the same conclusion. This is not just some historical problem, she just delivered (6-19-04) yet another of these seriously unhinged addresses at UCLA for the Commencement of the Engineering College there. The text of this speech is available (for now at least) on HP's web site alongside her executive biography.

UCLA has one of the best engineering schools in the country and they have a large number of serious students of engineering. Yet Carly decides to start out her address with a joke about Donald Trump's hair and soon starts rambling at length and incoherently about her impressions of reality television. She continues on with references to disco, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, William Hung and yet another reference to Donald Trump's hair.

This Carly performance is an extreme embarrassment to HP and its investors. After hearing this speech, which implied they were a bunch of airheads, why would any UCLA student or faculty member want to come to HP? Why would they want to buy an HP computer when they could buy a Dell or an IBM? Why would Donald Trump want to buy HP equipment for his firms or give HP valuable free advertising by making a complimentary reference to HP equipment?

This would have been a much better book if George Anders had read and analyzed her speeches.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By fairleft on July 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
American tech industries were in the middle of tough times and facing a very uncertain future, as they still are, and the HP board did not understand what kind of "new HP" would deal best with that new world. None of this is in the book, but this should've been reasonably clear by 2003 when the book was published. And Carly, with a little insight, should be seen as just another bubble economy internet dream seller. She quickly developed "an internet story" to sell herself to HP, and ostensibly for HP to sell to the world, and the board was _so_ delighted. Between the lines (we can find out a lot there, as this book is fully documented, and so it earns three stars) the board comes off as quite naive, and Carly as what she is: a saleswoman who pumps herself up to "believe" what she's selling, but others should be a whole lot more skeptical.

Anders writes without insight. For example, all of this Carly story selling is coming chronologically on the downside of the tech bubble. At that point, but at least for Anders by 2003, the b.s./fakery should've been ripe for exposure. Also arising from the facts but absent is some big picture thinking on the whole matter of naive boards & naive directors (including Hewlett) attempting to decide the future of a company as technically complex and in as many businesses as HP. Finally, no exposure of the following: it seemed clear (between the lines) that part of every side's plan for HP -- whether it stayed in one piece, merged with Compaq, or not -- was to slash employees and ship lots of jobs to cheap labor sites overseas. Both sides knew this would be an obvious part of "the solution" but nobody would say it publicly (though they tried euphemistically to give the right signals to Wall Street).
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Jaffe on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There are two sides to every merger and in the case of Hewlett Packard and Compaq Computer, the competing sides weren't just the companies. They include the historians documenting it.
For Perfect Enough, George Anders gained access to HP CEO Carly Fiorina and her fellow board members and executives. It provides a full picture of the genesis of the computing deal. Explaining the frustration board members felt at the company's inability to keep up with competitors benefiting from the Internet boom such as Dell Computer Corp. or release a killer new product since the laser printer in the early 1980s, Anders stresses that the board members - and not just Fiorina- were seeking a radical makeover for HP.
Peter Burrows' competing book about the merger, Backfire, paints Carly Fiorina as a brilliant marketer and communicator who stumbled into HP after one of the worst executive search jobs of all time by Christian Timbers. Her first two years was good idea after good idea followed by poor execution after poorer execution. The Business Week journalist implies the Compaq merger was primarily a way to deflect attention away from her inability to turn the company around after her first two years there.
Anders' more sympathetic account is fascinating at times such as its description of the complex relationship between Fiorina and David Packard's daughter Susan Packard-Orr. But, Burrows' book - unencumbered by any sense of loyalty to Fiorina, who snubbed the author - digs deeper into Fiorina's past by interviewing her ex-husband and childhood friends, thereby providing a much fuller picture of the executive, if not the entire organization.
Taken together, the two books complement each other nicely. It remains to be seen if the same can be said for the merger.
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