In Search of the HP Way
Sometimes it’s valuable to look back and recognise the good ideas and great people that create firms that last the test of time.
Earlier this week I attended a reunion of former Hewlett-Packard employees in Sydney. It was most enjoyable to see how former colleagues had built on their HP experiences during thirty years (1970-2000) when HP was constantly recognised as one of the best performing corporations in the world.
A big legacy of the firm is ‘The HP Way’ which is formally described in a book of the same title written by Dave Packard and first published in 1995. According to Jim Collins in the foreword to a reprint, its foundations can be traced to the HP start-up in the Palo Alto garage in 1937.
‘Today, we take the tenets of the HP Way almost for granted, but when first formulated, they were visionary—indeed, quite radical for the times. In 1949, David Packard, attended a gathering of business leaders. As the day wore on, Packard became increasingly frustrated with the parochial, small-minded perspective of his fellow CEOs. Peering down from his 6′ 5″ frame, the 37 year old Packard voiced a contrary view: A company has a responsibility beyond making a profit for stockholders; it has a responsibility to recognize the dignity of its employees as human beings, to the well-being of its customers, and to the community at large. Packard later reflected in a 1964 Colorado College commencement speech: “I was surprised and shocked that not a single person at that meeting agreed with me. While they were reasonably polite in their disagreement, it was quite evident they firmly believed I was not one of them, and obviously not qualified to manage an important enterprise.’
From the early days Hewlett-Packard founders, William (Bill) Hewlett and David Packard aimed to create a workplace that fostered innovation, focused on customers and teamwork, encouraged high achievement, and rewarded loyalty. These fundamental beliefs were still being applied in the late 1990’s. Unfortunately commencing in July 1999, a series of poor CEO appointments and really bad acquisition/strategy decisions changed the business significantly for the worse affecting shareholders, business partners, employees and customers. (If you are interested in more information on HP’s series of CEO and business failures, read Succession by Noel Tichy 2014).
When you overlook the leadership failures of the recent past, the HP Way still provides guidelines and values that have been proven to work over sixty years when Hewlett-Packard was a leader in technology and organisational culture. The concepts can be employed in any business, small or large when owners and managers have the foresight of founders like Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett.
The HP way has two significant components; the first describes company values and culture and the second defines priorities for day to day business activities. When you reflect on the points you will see similar ideas that many other businesses employ today, you will also think of many firms that fail to attain a such a standard.
- We have trust and respect for individuals
- We focus on a high level of achievement and contribution
- We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity
- We achieve our common objectives through teamwork
- We encourage flexibility and innovation
Focus and priorities
- Profits are essential for business success
- Focus on fields of interest where HP adds value to a customer business
- Focus on positive customer outcomes
- Always be innovating
- Growth is essential
- Create a working environment where employees can learn, grow and share success
- Seek to improve the communities where HP operates
On reflection, could these values and focus areas add value to your business today? Read more about the HP Way in Packard’s book or talk to any pre 2000 former HP employees. I would be happy to take a call 0412 696 329.