Carly Fiorina’s book & board viruses

carly.jpgFormer Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina has been making the rounds everywhere lately promoting her new book, Tough Choices. Her comments add to the considerable attention these days on the dysfunctional behavior of corporate boards.

VentureBeat caught up with Fiorina when she spoke at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government this week. She’s utilizing the book and tour to present her side of the story, defending her performance and condemning the board — something that is easier to do now that HP is reeling from its little Spygate. Still, her account has been labeled revisionist and contested by many, including Kleiner Perkins partner and former HP board member Tom Perkins. There’s a good summary of this in today’s Mercury News on the backdrop of her Silicon Valley tour.

Responding to critics — many of them in the media — blaming her for failure of leadership, Fiorina contested that it’s hard for people to change a fixed opinion and that reporters had doomed the HP-Compaq merger and her leadership before the integration even started.

So she has focused on board dynamics. Here Fiorina recommends that companies should manage boards by applying techniques used to evaluate management. Examples are 360 degree reviews and evaluations of qualifications. In recent weeks, as stock option back-dating has been exposed at numerous companies, the network of directors participating on multiple boards has been called into question.

Meanwhile, directors sitting on more than one board may “have spread suspect practices like a virus from company to company,” concludes an assessment by the Corporate Library, as summarized in the Mercury News. However, the article points out that there is no proof that the directors advised companies to adopt these practices.

[John Shapiro is a VentureBeat contributing author based in Boston.]