Meg Whitman’s 4-step guide to killing acquisitions

Some executives just don’t learn from past mistakes. Acquisitions can be ugly if you simply repeat a process that has yet to work. Columnist Rob Enderle says HP’s Meg Whitman is the prime example.

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Step 3: Cut the crap out of the unit

You’ve cut off the head, you’ve disorganized the firm, so your next step is to start laying off people. Do this as randomly as possible so that you tank moral in the process, and anyone of value who was even thinking of riding this out is convinced that is a bad plan.  

This should remove any ability for the firm to function. Don’t do this justonce either. Layoffs are the gift that keeps on giving and they’ll kill a company faster than Justin Bieber can kill his image. This is like cutting off a chickens head, tying up its feet and then shooting it full of holes. You’ll probably have a hard time recognizing it anymore, but if you were ever concerned it could cross the road, it certainly isn’t going anyplace now.  

Step 4: Blame others

This is important because if folks get the idea you are at faul, they might replace you and fix this process. Don’t let them do that. Make it clear that the reason this acquisition is failing is because of the idiots running it (and you got rid of them in Step 1, so they won’t disagree with you).

Don’t let anyone conclude the reason the acquisition failed is because you systematically destroyed the unit. If you want to keep destroying company value it is critical the board never knows you are the one at fault -- those fools might replace you and then what would you do for a hobby?

Splunk 3 Tier-3 (Huntsman)

Actually, there is nothing funny about destroying jobs. It is a horrid experience to have to live through and my heart goes out to those still at HP. Interestingly, there is a right way to do acquisitions developed at IBM by some folks that got fed up with how badly IBM used to do this and the process has since been largely adopted and refined at Dell and EMC.

But while HP is hardly alone at using methods that systematically destroy the acquired company, it is the poster child for doing the best, or worst as the case may be, job of it. ArcSight joins acquired firms like VoodooPC, Palm, Neoware and it will soon be joined by 3Par, which is only months behind ArcSight from what I understand of the changes in that acquired firm. (I met with some of the ex-employees from 3Par about a month ago.).

I’m not going to mention Autonomy because that was pretty much dead on arrival (though it made the list of the worst acquisitions in history as did PALM. HP is the only firm on this list twice and both within months of each other. Now that’s a skill!?!).

The two firms that seem to be benefitting from this latest collapse are 3-Tier (they have the Huntsman offering) and is most often selected to fix ArcSight implementations and Splunk, where the remaining ArcSight employees of any note ended up.  

And if you see HP moving to acquire a firm you work for or depend on, act as if it will soon be dead because when it comes to killing acquisitions, like James Bond, nobody does it better. I just wish (and I’ll bet a lot of ex-HP customers and employees are with me) that they’d pick something else to excel at.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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