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

2.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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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.

Review

"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 (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not what I expected but better with great insight into Fiorina's thinking and her tenacity, with attention for detail. The woman has been severely malligned. She had she continued would have been known as one of the truly great leaders. She was let go just as all of her planning began to bear fruit, and Hurd benefiited from her expertise as the HP began the great recovery that Hurd then plundered..
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Format: Hardcover
The most interesting aspect of George Anders' "Perfect Enough" is the book's very existence: it is tangible evidence of the power of the HP PR machine under Carly Fiorina, and the transformation of HP from heads-down engineering excellence to a Carly-centric media machine. In other words, this is the book that HP and the HP board want the public to read, facing the release of a competing and more critical book ("Backfire" by Peter Burrows). In "Perfect Enough", Fiorina is positioned favorably - a lone crusader in a sexist culture of engineers who have lost the "shining soul" that made the company and its founders legend. She is depicted as the grim and embattled hero, fighting and winning the good fight against impossible obstacles both internal and external. It would be wrong to accuse Fiorina of wrecking the celebrated "HP Way", already in steep decline long before her tenure. But to portray her as the staunch defender of a cause she seems not to understand, and trivializes through slogans and catch-phases, is a far more serious offense which Anders chooses to overlook.
Much has been made of the unfettered access the author was granted to Carly and the board, resulting in a detailed account of the HP recollection of events behind closed doors. But unless you are really interested in the menus of the lunches served to the board in critical meetings, I'd recommend Burrows' book for an "unsanctioned", but far more balanced, portrait of the events leading to HP's acquisition of Compaq.
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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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