Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The HP Phenomenon: Why does HP Matter?

Monday, Dec 7, 2009 I (and a few hundred others) went to the Computer History Museum's book discussion event "Chuck House in Conversation with KQED's Dave Iverson- The HP Phenomenon: Innovation and Business" not so much to learn but to participate in the "feel good" aura that HP themed events seem to create. And I was not disappointed. Along with meeting several fellow HP'ers I enjoyed reliving HP stories. But the last Iverson question, "why does HP matter?" really got me thinking. As people know, I am a "dust to dust, ashes to ashes" kind of a person so why do I care that the HP story be told? Why do several hundred, maybe several thousands care?
After a great deal of thought, I know now why I care. And maybe why every leader should care. The answer as simple in concept as it is complex to execute and it is:
HP brought out the very best in everybody (employees, customers) - for innovation, for just being a better person, a better citizen. Because this is not easy to explain, we call it the HP way (respect for individual etc.) but it is more than that. There was an institutional element to the HP way - management walked the talk. Thus as a entry level software engineer, I stayed in the same hotel as my division GM when I travelled for work and on more than one occasion travelled coach with him on flights. The week I joined HP (after almost 4 interviews and one year) we went on "work 5 day and get paid for 4" work day schedule (this is in the book) to avoid layoffs - not in our division which was doing fine but another part of the company. We did it happily. So did management. As Chuck said, decisions were bottom up - it was our policy - we knew that good times follow bad times and so on - nothing special. Equally important was the HP way impact on community - wherever HP operated. I remember once (pre-Euro days) travelling in Europe, crossing a country border, when 2 members in our party were missing official documents. The gun toting border guards, when they found we were HP employees let us pass - as if that is documentation enough of our honesty. Another time, a new employee in my group, got an apartment rental without references because "Oh, you work at HP - you must be a good person".
HP is a leader in innovation. HP is successful. We were successful. We could be good people and we would be successful.
Good = Success. That is the HP way and HP was living proof of it.
In these turbulent times, when we make compromises with our principles every day, The HP story, that if you do your best you (and the world) will be a better place, matters.
It is the All American story.