Why Meg Whitman's "Hmm...' emails make HP managers scramble

Meg Whitman HMM

Business Insider

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman believes many leaders tend to inadvertently create a "culture of fear" where people are "scared" to tell to the boss about problems.

So she said in an onstage interview on Wednesday with Dropbox founder Drew Houston in San Francisco.

As someone who was hired to help revitalize the giant HP and turn its shrinking revenues around, Whitman couldn't afford to have her employees behave that way with her, she explained.
"If you can't name the problem, you have no hope of fixing it," she said.

But when she arrived at HP, the "company has been through so much" that employees were loath to speak up about issues, she said. "The instinct was to pull back and hope something gets better on its own. Trust me. It never gets better on its own. Business is not like fine wine."

So she told the whole company they were to follow a new rule. If they saw an issue they were to "escalate in 24 hours and resolve it in 48 hours. If that problem is not solved in 48, everyone has the right to send me an email. I'm an expert forwarder. When I forward an email on, things get done," she said.

Houston asked her if she followed the famous example of Jeff Bezos who tends to reads a lot of customer complaint emails himself and then forward them to the relevant manager with the simple message, "?". Anyone that gets a question mark email at the company knows they have to hop-to and fix it within hours, or at least get Bezos an answer about it.

Whitman says she doesn't use a question mark. Her "hop-to-it" emails simply say, "Hmm ..." Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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