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The Scuba Sutras book

September 10, 2012

Finally …. the Scuba Sutras: Ten lessons from under the sea is now published.

Available on FlipKart … even though the “launch” of the book is planned for this weekend!

Here’s a peek at the cover:



Diving in Neil Island

May 26, 2012

Just got back last week from a two week diving vacation in the Neil Islands.  What a rush.  And the best part is that I took my daughter for her first couple of scuba diving experiences!

Here are some photos from that trip .. on Picasa.  Enjoy.


January 7, 2012

I was asked to present the Scuba Sutras: Ten lessons from under the sea; at the ICICI CEO Forum on the 6th of January, 2012.  About a hundred CEOs there.  A lot of them asked me if I could share the presentation with them: so here it is: downloading enabled.

The Scuba Sutras presentation


What are you doing, HP Board?

September 22, 2011

First: Carly Fiorina:  Gone in January 2005.  Then, for a brief period, you brought in Robert Wayman as interim CEO.  Then you fired Patricia Dunn from her role as the Chairman in September 2006.  For a while you had a good guy: Mark Hurd, who ensured that HP was number 1 in desktops and laptops from 2006 onward, and grew HP’s share of the printer market to close to 50% of the market.  And then, anyway, you fired him about a year ago over the Jodie Fisher sexual harassment scandal, and for “expense account irregularities”.   You prompted Larry Ellison to actually write “the HP Board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple Board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them. HP had a long list of failed CEOs until they hired Mark who has spent the last five years doing a brilliant job reviving HP to its former greatness”.

And then, you totally lose control.

You bring in Leo Apotheker, the ex-CEO of … SAP?  A business software company to manage a primarily devices business?  What happened to the Fifth Sutra … “I will not confuse expertise with certificates”?  Any wonder that the market reacted so sharply to the move … dropping HP stock by almost 50% since September 2010?

In February 2011, you announce that you are going to take on the iPad in the consumer space with the Palm TouchPad running WebOS.  And you also add that you will ship WebOS (which you acquired for about $1.2Billion just about a year and a half ago) on your new PCs.  And then, in August … just five months later, you kill the TouchPad, announcing a fire sale for what you have left in stock.   And you totally sideline WebOS.  What happened to the second Sutra : “I will maintain neutral buoyancy?”

In August 2011, you announce that you are going to spin off your PC business and buy enterprise software company Autonomy.  Huh?  Never mind the years of effort you spent spent — including a controversial merger with Compaq — to become the world’s largest PC maker. Never mind that the PC business feeds H-P’s more profitable businesses. Sure … you do have extensive expertise in the services and consulting businesses, which means that buying an enterprise software company might actually be a good move … but to announce that you were going to spin off your PC business without having a buyer in place?  What happened to following the first sutra: “I will never dive without a check”?

And now … you prompt the media to write that you might fire Leo Apotheker, and replace him with Meg Whitman, ex-CEO of eBay? Do you need to be reminded of the Fifth Sutra again?  What are you up to?


Yahoo! still doesn’t get it …

September 12, 2011

OK, so Carol Bartz is gone.  Interestingly, I was watching the story unfold on the BBC website and within six hours of her firing being top news, she had slipped to an “also ran” position.  Twenty four hours later, she wasn’t on the BBC website anymore.

Gone in 24 hours …

But the Yahoo board still doesn’t seem to get the message: they need to hire expertise, and not certificates (The Fifth Sutra).  And their choice of even an interim CEO … Tim Morse … could be a disaster even worse than the way they handled Bartz’s departure.

Tim Morse’s brief bio is here, but I wanted to share it with you all: highlights mine.

Mr. Morse became our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in July 2009. Previously, Mr. Morse served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Altera Corporation, a semiconductor company specializing in programmable logic devices for communications, industrial, and consumer applications, from January 2007 to June 2009. Prior to joining Altera, Mr. Morse held various positions in financial management with General Electric (GE), a diversified technology, media and financial services company, starting in the GE Capital division in 1991 and moving to the GE Appliances division in 1994 before joining the GE Plastics division in 1997. In July 2005, Mr. Morse was named the Chief Financial Officer and General Manager, Business Development for GE Plastics. Mr. Morse holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Operations/Strategic Management from Boston College.

Do we need to discuss this any more?  Well, perhaps: yes.

On the Yahoo website, you can see that Tim Morse is responsible for “managing Yahoo!’s day-to-day operations until a permanent chief executive is appointed, as well as the company’s finance, investor relations, and mergers and acquisitions groups“.  Suddenly, its not such a surprise any more, given the contentious board that Yahoo has.

Why does Snoop Dogg figure when I searched for Timothy Morse Yahoo?
.. still doesn’t explain why Snoop Dogg figured when I searched for “Timothy Morse Yahoo” ..

There is talk that Ross Levinsohn could be the next CEO of Yahoo.  He’s certainly better qualified for the job: he is the former President of Fox Interactive Media, the internet and new media arm of News Corporation, where he directly reported to Rupert Murdoch.  The scary part is that he’s been with Yahoo for less than a year (November 2010 onward), but perhaps less scary than hiring someone who is totally inward focused (a finance guy) to manage what Yahoo needs now: someone who can help Yahoo develop an identity and sell that to employees, advertisers, partners and consumers. Yahoo has some great piece parts—messaging used by hundreds of millions of users worldwide; a sports brand that stands apart from other web properties and strong content plays in news and finance.

What the Yahoo board needs to do is to find someone who has the vision to combine all those pieces into a true “digital media” leader that Yahoo could be.   There have been many names tossed about: this article discusses them here: but in my opinion, its time that the board truly comes together to find someone who can restore Yahoo’s glory days.

Or perhaps they have already made up their minds that they will follow the Tenth Sutra: I will remember there is always another ocean to dive.  In this case, a pity.  A real pity.

I’ve just been fired ….

September 8, 2011

Well, actually, what Carol Bartz said was this: “I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.”.

And with those immortal words, she’s sparked off hundreds of thousands of comments, responses, angry remonstrations against Yahoo!, cheering from the stock market … and anything else that could be imagined.

End result: after 30 months at Yahoo, Carol Bartz moved on … leaving Yahoo stock almost exactly where it was when she had joined (about $12.50).

Where did Carol Bartz fail? According to this analyst, her biggest mistake was her over confidence that made her misread the situation at Yahoo.  She waited eighteen months before she built a team with her.  And the tough-talking, sometimes profane Bartz, a respected veteran of Autodesk and Sun Microsystems, had hoped to bring her management skills to bear on a company that was adrift for years and unable to capitalize on what is still one of the Web’s largest audiences under one corporate roof.

In other words: Carol clearly didn’t realize her own 50 bar limit (Sutra 8).  And yes, by all accounts, she wasn’t too good a buddy either (Sutra 4) .. considering the speed with technology employees were leaving Yahoo.

But was the fault hers alone?

In my opinion, the real fault lies with Yahoo’s board itself.  The hired Bartz based on her experience at scaling Autodesk .. but that experience was completely out of context when it came to managing a “Digital Media” company, as Yahoo calls itself.  In effect: the Yahoo board hired Bartz for her “certificates” from Autodesk, rather than from her “expertise” (see Scuba Sutra 5: I will not confuse expertise with certificates”).  At Autodesk, Bartz’s expertise was built in scaling a core business … and therefore growing earnings and market.  She never had to deal with finding innovative products, or innovative revenue sources at Autodesk: which is what she needed expertise in for Yahoo.

Second: and this is even more alarming.  The Board of Directors … after having approved an investment into Jack Ma’s Alibaba (China) in return for 40% stock … only later realized that Alibaba’s flagship Online Payment service, Alipay, did not feature in this investment.  It wasn’t just Bartz’s failure: it was the failure of the whole board.  Didn’t they think of following the first sutra: “I will never dive without a check”?

Third: the board itself is contentious and divided.  And its been that way since February 2008, when the first news of a “friendly” (but unsolicited) takeover by Microsoft was first announced to the press.  The board was constantly divided on this issue .. not a very good example of the 4th Sutra: “being good buddies”, is it?

It will be interesting to see what Yahoo does next.  One report states that Yahoo is bringing in external consultants to advise the board on what to do.  And yesterday, a report came out that Yahoo was going to propose a sale to Microsoft.

Whatever it does, these are contentious times for all at Yahoo.   What do you think?

Neutral Buoyancy Alert?

August 24, 2011

What do you think?  Are these examples of companies losing their Neutral Buoyancy?

Just a few days ago, HP announced that it was spinning off its PC and Tablet business, and acquiring a software company, Autonomy for a massive $10.3 billion.  And a few days before that,  Google announced that it was acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion … in cash.  And Cisco?  Well, Cisco is rapidly jettisoning its consumer forays .. starting with its Flip Camera division, and more recently, its Scientific Atlanta division that it had acquired for a huge $6.9 billion late in 2005.

What do you think? Send in your comments!

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