The tale was passed around in an earlier career life that when Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, arrived in a Board room to do a deal with a high-flying IT guy, the signs of ego could hardly fit in the room – a flying squad of bodyguards (disguised as aides) paving the way beforehand, gold chains, open shirt, deep tan. It was one meeting I missed, but was regaled with opinions left and right about him and his entourage, all of which seemed to fit reports at the time along those lines.
Even though his intention to buy Apple never came about, it’s hard to argue with success as we continually observe in so many organizations. I might not even waste time calling such a story to mind except for the recent publicity about Oracle’s results. One day analysts were predicting rosy outcomes and, wait for it… the next day the company’s CFO was blaming its sales staff for missing expectations (therefore not so indirectly blaming HR as well for poor orientation and training of) – all the new staff they had to hire for their recent acquisitions… acquisitions no doubt that provided more feathers in the caps of Ellison and the CFO. Did they even involve HR in the planning? Lots don’t.
One thing you learn in public companies is there is lots of behind the scenes rumbling about ‘guidance’ to analysts to foreshadow and shape expectations about good or bad results. The worst thing is to allow surprises. A “surprise” that nevertheless the CFO had an instant answer for doesn’t seem like it should have been such a surprise. Can’t anyone read the sales reports leading up to public reporting? Yet this wasn’t foreshadowed even one day before results were announced that ended up seeing the share price drop 8% – a rather significant oversight, something not handled in any way by HR.
Of course, the news item goes on to say, some of the drop might be due to rumbling that tough cost-cutting President Mark Hurd, ex-Hewlett Packard operator, might be recruited away to run Dell in a buyout of that ailing company. And so the egos and musical chairs continue to shuffle at the top of behemoths in the industry. What would Steve Jobs do? (Oh, I suppose you’d have to buy the book of that name to give it a good guess.)
Apparently what these leaders won’t do is take responsibility for either poor planning, poor support for HR programs or poor anticipation of the impact of these things. One would have to include Hurd in that group and perhaps take a closer look at his record at HP and Oracle and others before offering Dell up to see if his standard approach is really what’s needed there. From everything we read, cost-cutting CEOs tend to be shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic compared to the success rates of those who promote highly effective HR and engagement to boost innovation and, pretty directly, financial results. Maybe, just maybe, even Oracle would be better off with a different sort of leader. But it’s hard to argue with success, right?