Dunn to death

We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity – that’s the HP Way, or at least it was, in most people’s eyes, until the HP board decided it needed to flush out a mole passing on boardroom information to the press.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  September 24, 2006

|~||~||~|We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity – that’s the HP Way, or at least it was, in most people’s eyes, until the HP board decided it needed to flush out a mole passing on boardroom information to the press.

Chairwoman Patricia Dunn did the honourable thing and has fallen on the sword, resigning immediately instead of waiting until the New Year as originally planned. And so she should. The whole debacle, furore, scandal or whatever – because the full details are not out yet - happened on her watch in the chair.

Many will be questioning what all the fuss is about. Whey should a company and its head be committing public hara-kiri and flagellating itself/himself as CEO and now chairman Mark Hurd did when announcing Dunn’s immediate resignation? After all, the whole boardroom investigation could surely have been justified by the fact that the mole was causing untold damage to the public company, its shareholders and stakeholders – people who, under the HP Way, are what matter.

It is when something like this happens and is received with a deafening hush that we should be querying our business and ethical values today. Without getting too political, it is shame many political leaders in this world and their various policy makers do not do the same when something happens on their watch.

No one knows yet precisely what happened on Dunn’s watch or how much she knew about the measures taken or, in fact, whether she drove the whole course of the investigations. Neither do we know what the investigation entailed nor whether the HP board really has something to hide.

But so far, what we do know pales into insignificance compared with all the financial scandals that have plagued the IT world over the past couple of years. HP representatives stepped over the accepted practices line when it comes to personal privacy. They did it, got caught and addressed it. There was no question of it being justifiable in today’s new age.

Compare that to many of the other scandals that have hit the IT vendor community. It is still supremely ironic – not to mention sad - that the some of the very companies that are selling security, compliancy and governance products, solutions and frameworks are the very ones not doing so.

For example, earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published a list of more than 105 companies that have come under scrutiny for past stock-option grants. The list was of companies that have disclosed government probes, misdated options, restatements and/or executive departures. Most of them were IT and high-tech companies.

It is obvious that business ethics, standards and beliefs have changed radically over the last few years – and certainly over the decades since Hewlett and Packard first devised a management philosophy based on integrity, respect for individuals, teamwork, innovation, and responsibility to the community. HP has not escaped this change, but at least it does differ from the norm in that it still has a bit of uncompromising integrity left.

Now, dare we hope for the same in politics?

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