Recently, I discussed with some HP colleagues about the old “HP Way”. This happens a lot, actually. I’d say that this is a topic of discussion during lunch at HP maybe once a week, in one form or another.

Employees who were at Hewlett-Packard before the merger with Compaq, more specifically before Carly Fiorina decided to overhaul the corporate culture, will often comment about the “good old days”. Employees from companies that HP acquired later, most notably Compaq or DEC, are obviously much less passionate about the HP Way, but they generally show some interest if only because of the role it used to play in making HP employees so passionate about their company.

Oh, look, the HP Way is gone!

One thing I had noticed was that the “HP Way” was nowhere to be found on any HP web site that I know of. It is not on the corporate HP History web site, nor does a search for “HP Way” on that site get any meaningful result. It’s possible that there is a better search string that would get the result, it may even be somewhere I did not look, but my point is that it’s not very easy to find. (Update: Since one reader got confused, I want to make clear that I’m looking for the text of the HP Way, the description of the values that used to be given to employees, which I quote below. I am not looking for the words “HP Way”, which are present at a number of places.)

Contrast this with the About HP corporate page in 1996, and what do you see here as the last link? Sure thing: the HP way is prominently displayed as an essential component of the HP culture. Every HP employee was “brainwashed” with the HP Way from his or her first day in the company. No wonder that years later, they still ask where it’s gone. Back then, the HP way even had its own dedicated web page.

Did someone rewrite HP corporate history?

So the fact that there is no reference to it anywhere on today’s corporate web site seems odd. It almost looks like history has been rewritten. It get the same feeling when I enter the HP building in Sophia-Antipolis. Why? Because there are two portraits in the lobby: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. That building was initially purchased and built by Digital Equipment Corporation. If any picture should be there, it should show Ken Olsen, not Hewlett or Packard, nor Rod Canion for that matter.

I would personally hate to have built a company that left the kind of imprint in computer history DEC left, only to see it vanish from corporate memory almost overnight… Erasing the pictures of the past sounds much more like Vae Victis or the work of George Orwell’s Minitrue than the kind of fair and balanced rendition of corporate history you would naively expect from a well-meaning corporate communication department.

Google can’t find the HP Way either…

But the truth is, I don’t think there is any evil intended here. One reason is that Google sometimes has troube finding the HP Way too. Actually, your mileage may vary. I once got a link on the HP alumni as the second result. But usually, you are much more likely to find Lunch, the HP way, an extremely funny story for those who were at HP in those days (because it is sooo true).

As the saying goes, “never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by studidity“. As an aside, this is sometimes attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, but I can’t find any French source that would confirm it. I think that the closest confirmed equivalent from Bonaparte would be “N’interrompez jamais un ennemi qui est en train de faire une erreur” (never interrupt an enemy while he’s making a mistake), but that is not even close.

Back on topic, I’m tempted to think that it’s simply a case where the HP Way was no longer considered relevant, and nobody bothered to keep a tab on it in the HP corporate web site. As a result, when looking for “HP Way” on the web today, it’s become much easier to find highly critical accounts of HP than a description of what the HP Way really represented. Obviously, that can’t be too good for HP’s image…

Where can we find the HP Way today?

To finally find a reference to the HP way as I remembered it being described to HP employees, I had to search Google for a comparison with Carly Fiorina’s “Rules of the garage”. And I finally found a tribute to Bill Hewlett that quotes both texts exactly as I remembered them.

As the link to the historical HP way page on the HP web site shows, another option is to use the excellent Wayback Machine to look at the web they way it used to be at some point in the past. But that’s something you will do only if you remember that there once was something to be searched for. Again, the point here is not that you cannot find it, it’s that finding the original HP Way has become so much more difficult…

The original HP Way: It’s all about employees

The original HP Way was not so much about a company as it was about its employees:

The HP Way
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.

There are only five points and very few words. It’s a highly condensed way to express the corporate policy, which trusts the employees to understand not just the rules, but most importantly their intent and spirit. There is no redundancy, each point is about a different topic. These rules have been written by engineers for engineers. It’s almost a computer program…

The rules of the garage: What was that all about?

By contrast, the so-called “Rules of the Garage” introduced by Carly Fiorina, look really weak:

Rules of the Garage
Believe you can change the world.
Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
Know when to work alone and when to work together.
Share – tools, ideas.
Trust your colleagues.
No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
The customer defines a job well done.
Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
Invent different ways of working.
Make a contribution every day.
If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
Believe that together we can do anything.

To me, it sounds much more like the kind of routine you’d give to little kids in kindergarden… It’s not precise, highly redundant. More importantly, the relationship between the company and the employee is no longer bi-directional as it was in the HP Way. Notice how “we” changed into “you” except in the last one. If I were cynical, I’d say that this new set of rules is: “you do this, and we’ll get the reward”… Isn’t that exactly what happened in the years that followed?

The Rules of the Garage did not last long. They quietly went the way of the dodo, but I don’t think it was ever intended for them to last decades as the HP Way had. Instead, I believe that the problem was to evict the HP Way without giving the impression that nothing replaced it. But in reality, nothing replaced the HP Way: the Rules of the Garage were essentially empty, and after the Rules of the Garage, there was nothing…

How is that relevant today?

Despite its long absence on the HP Corporate web site, the HP Way is still seen as the reference for a successful corporate culture nowadays. It’s widely recognized that HP and the HP culture ignited the Silicon Valley. There is a good reason for that: highly creative people are what makes this economy thrive. See Phil McKinney’s ideas on the creative economy to see just how relevant this remains today. But guess what: creativity is motivated by the confident belief that there will be a reward.

The HP Way was about the various aspects of that reward: respect, achievement, integrity, teamwork, innovation. I can’t think of much beyond that in terms of recognition. I can’t think of better reasons to work hard. Now, I don’t care much about calling it the HP Way, but I do care about these values being at the core of what my company does. This is not by accident if the top technology companies in the world, including a large fraction of the Silicon Valley, have applied the HP Way in one form or another. It’s not charity, it’s simply the most efficient way to do business when the majority of your employees are highly creative individuals.

With all the respect that I have for HP’s current management, as far as corporate culture is concerned, they could still learn a thing of two from such history-certified business geniuses as Hewlett and Packard. About eight years after having been actively erased from corporate communication, the HP Way is still very much being talked about; it is still regarded as a reference. Maybe that’s a sign that there is something timeless about it…

Update: HP Way 2.0?

Today, Google “HP Way” and HP’s corporate values show as the second entry. No keyword stuffing here (I checked), but Google apparently decided that the page was relevant to the topic somehow. It’s a good thing: the keywords in HP’s corporate objectives are much closer to the old HP Way than to the Rules of the Garage. The five original keywords, respect, achievement, integrity, teamwork, innovation, are all there. New keywords have been added, including agility or passion. But the style is the same, very terse, very dense. The HP web site labels this as “our shared values”, but it wouldn’t be unfair to call it “HP Way 2.0”.

The next step is to make employees (and from there, outside observers) really believe that these values are back. People outside HP may not realize just how hard it was to turn HP around. Reorganizations were frequent. A number of good people, colleagues and friends, lost their jobs. This left scars. Many employees don’t feel valued or safe anymore. Many will no longer believe that “trust or respect for individuals” applies to them. This can be fixed, and for the long term of HP, this has to be fixed. Not because HP should be a charity, but precisely because the HP Way is what made HP such a successful business.

Il est dans le caractère français d’exagérer,
de se plaindre et de tout défigurer
dès qu’on est mécontent.

Napoléon Bonaparte


45 thoughts on “Where did the HP Way go?

  1. Very good article. And totally agree. It was not a coincidence taht Bill and Dave build a big and great company during 60 years. About Carly days, better to forgot. I remeber her in front our site repeating and repeating ‘believe you can change the wolrd’, when the audience was expecting market and product strategies and our site future.Today, nothing, just ratios, cost cutting, lack of produtivity and confusion. The target is pass the quaterly reviews with a non questioned presentation.Again, the best analysis about HP I read in years. Congratulations

  2. Good article. As a long-time HPer, my sense is that upper management in Carly’s day viewed the HP Way as something very negative. That it somehow gave employees an excuse and a sense of entitlement for resisting any and all change. That it somehow represented all that had gone wrong at HP. They clearly misunderstood what Bill and Dave meant the HP Way to be — a set of core values that define how employees and the company were to conduct themselves. It represented our commitment to our customers, and to ourselves. Carly was too caught up in the latest buzzword to understand this. It’s true that she effectively killed the HP Way by eliminating it from HP jargon and by not using it as a set of unifying values during the buyout of Compaq. On the positive side, I see Mark Hurd as a clear return to many of the values of the HP Way. Focus on contribution, teamwork, flexiblity, etc. I’d love for him to explicitly bring the HP Way back. Some would argue that layoffs aren’t consistent with the HP Way, but I don’t agree. It would be quite interesting to see how Bill and Dave would have responded to the current business environment if they were still leading HP. I only met Bill once, so I am definitely not an expert. But I suspect that they would have continued to be forward looking, adaptable, and hard-headed about delivering value to the customer. I believe they would have also been more employee-oriented than Carly (by far) and Mark (by a little).

  3. As a long-time employee of Hewlett Packard (I joined HP in 1980), the main thing that always strikes me about these recurrent discussions about the HP Way is the ubiquitous victim mentality. It is as though, from what people say about the changes to HP over the years, as though Bill and Dave handed the HP Way to their employees on a silver platter and from on high, and that subsequent bozos took it back. All very convenient for the “victims”, to my mind. But if you’d talked to Dave about it, I believe he would have scoffed, and said that the HP Way comes from you as much as it does from himself, and that if it’s not working like you think it should, and you don’t do anything about it, then you’re to blame.From my perspective, the HP Way was never about a special web page, or about the CEO saying the words “HP Way” in a reverent manner. It’s about behaviors. When Mark joined HP, I wrote to him to talk to him about some things I thought were important for him to hear, and he wrote back to me that same day, with a reply that made it clear he’d thought about what I’d had to say to him. That’s the HP Way, to my mind.HP has gone through periods of having to reinvent itself to stay relevant in the market, as all companies which survive must do. These have not always been smooth. I believe that most bemoaning of the changes to HP culture stem from some deep-seated belief that HP would never have had to make such changes, had Bill and Dave simply been able to live and work forever, and that the sense of loss has more to do with the pain of such transformation than anything else.From my perspective, the HP Way is alive and well.

  4. I was lucky enough to have met Bill and Dave in person, Bill very rapidly, Dave more personally. For those of you who are still at HP, you can see a picture and the story on the HPnow Patent Profile 2007 web site.This is one reason I tend to be very wary of putting anything in Bill or Dave’s mouth or mind. They were really smart, to the point where it’s hard to imagine what they would have done in this or that situation.What I can do, however, is to observe what they did. History tells us that they were businessmen who were hard headed delivering value to the customer, and cared a lot about employees. That included having a special web page dedicated to the HP Way, handing out an HP Way book to all new employees, and so on. This is not whining, this is not having a victim mentality, it’s just facts.I certainly hope (even believe) that the HP Way is alive and well, but I also observe that many at HP still feel the bitter taste of confusion or despair. I don’t see it as a victim mentality to fight back for a return of the HP Way (whether you call it that way or not). On the contrary, I see that as a sane reaction to a work environment that is less optimal than it used to be. It’s the same thing as when you see clutter on your desk and think “time to clean up!”, there’s no victim mentality involved here.Nobody wants to work for ratios, cost cutting and confusion. We all expect more from our job. Writing this blog about it is my way answer to: if you don’t do anything about it, then you are the one to blame, which I believe very much embodies the kind of values that H and P left to us. I’m glad there was such a reaction to this post, and I invite you to share the link if you think it fosters useful discussion.

  5. Hi Anonymous #4,I would be happy if you link to this blog. The more readers, the better. Please just make sure that you link to the specific story, not to the blog itself, because the other topics I occasionally address may not interest your readers as much.

  6. I think it will take much longer to get an “HP Way” back than it took to remove it. As a current HP employee, I run into people who do NOT put the customer first, do not have high integrity, etc. And as an employee I don’t see HP rewarding work whatsoever – innovative or mediocre. For the past 3 to 4 years there have been small or no raises, and no connection between performance reviews and raises or promotions. They have been replaced by “variable compensation” where the variable appears to be the way it is calculated differently each year, and published 1 week before it is paid. You simply cannot run a successful company long term with the current employee management strategy which HP is employing, in my humble opinion. Mark Hurd, while having done amazing things from an operations standpoint, does NOT appear to be focused on employees whatsoever. Or perhaps it is getting lost in the intervening layers of management. Other’s thoughts?

  7. Yes, it will take a while to rebuild the HP Way. Additionally, the article pointed out by tony:frosty, just like the comments here, shows that the HP Way is not the same thing to everyone. For instance, in his article, Jon Fortt writes “Growth and profits came first”. I do not agree with him.In my opinion, for Hewlett and Packard, growth and profits were only a mean to achieve company objectives, and by company, they meant more than just shareholders. My opinion is substantiated by verifiable facts, in particular the long version of the HP Way. The short version says We achieve common objectives through teamwork (emphasis mine). The long version is even more explicit: Our commitment is to work as a worldwide team to fulfill the expectations of our customers, shareholders and others who depend upon us. The benefits and obligations of doing business are shared among all HP people.In short, I think that Hewlett and Packard would never have talked about “growth and profits first”, they talked about “shared objectives”, growth and profits being only a mean to reach these shared objectives.Today, I want to be positive and to believe that there is a genuine desire to restore a company spirit that was badly shaken, if not destroyed. But I also agree that it’s really hard for rank and file employees, something I pointed out in my original post. At this point, based on my personal experience, employees no longer believe. There is distrust in management, in particular for the reasons you outlined.There is a reason for that too. Employees are not stupid. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in corporate management to realize that the objectives of employees are no longer put on equal footing with those of shareholders. One company promise many of use were hired on was: “The benefits and obligations of doing business are shared among all HP people.” I remember very clearly how much the person who hired me at HP insisted on that.Today, obligations remain shared, but it does not take more than a simple division to realize that the benefits are no longer shared the way they used to be. That’s not a victim mentality, that’s a much more down to earth engineer mentality. Trust engineers for being able to do basic math.

  8. Very good dialogue, good food for thought. As an almost 18 year HP employee, I’m conflicted. When I joined in 1990, people lamented the loss of donuts every day and that the HP Way had gone by the wayside. To me, that too was a downturn and things were rough in those early 90’s.As for Carly, I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t lay every ill of the company at her feet. She certainly missed the mark on many things, but a lot of the strategy she put in place still exists, just executed better. With the benefit of hindsight, we certainly wouldn’t be in the same place we’re at now without having bought Compaq.As for today’s HP, a couple of posters said it well to me — it feels like we’re numbers or ratios. There seems to be a lot of talk around the employees, but the actions seem hollow. So much is about getting alinged with the market, but it all feels like body blows to the employees. Here in the Silicon Valley, I’m not sure it feels like HP is no longer all that different from any other high tech company here, perhaps that’s just the real world.

  9. I don’t understand this blog post at all. Entering:”hp way” site:hp.cominto Google returns over 1200 hits, not to mention this page from the History which mentions it twice, and identifies it as the core values of the company. needs to learn how to surf, this took me like 90 seconds to put together.Remember, on the Internet you can say anything, but on the Internet it is trivial to verify facts too, and so you can SAY anything, just don’t expect those of us who know how to use Google to actually believe you.

  10. Anonymous #7 pointed out a possible ambiguity in my original post, so I updated it. Just to clarify: I’m not looking for the words “HP Way”, which mean little, I am looking for a definition of the HP Way, which I quoted in the article.I’ve looked at the first two pages of the search the reader suggested, and none of them contains it. Actually, searching with “We have trust and respect for individuals” gives only three hits, the primary one being the HP Business Ethics page.That page doesn’t contain “HP Way” as of today. However, the similarity in wording is what prompted me to write:[…] the keywords in HP’s corporate objectives are much closer to the old HP Way than to the Rules of the Garage. The five original keywords, respect, achievement, integrity, teamwork, innovation, are all there. New keywords have been added, including agility or passion. But the style is the same, very terse, very dense. The HP web site labels this as “our shared values”, but it wouldn’t be unfair to call it “HP Way 2.0”.

  11. I have just left HP Australia after a brief two years… HP in my experience has become a place where the management invents whatever “truths” they want, and after than, every issue that may arise is blamed on the failings of the workers. A totally poisonous and disingenuous place in which to work, where Truth, Honesty, Passion, and Striving to do a better job for the customer are considered in a very negative light

  12. I left the previous comment on “it will take longer to get the HP way back”. I received this email from a co-worker who just 3 years ago was viewed as a superstar. I just don’t understand HP employee management whatsoever.My friends and colleagues,As many of you know, after 7 years with HP, my present position was impacted by the most recent wave of HP Redeployment. As I begin to focus on the next stage of my career, I am exploring other opportunities at HP, but for now today is my last day and I will no longer have access to this email address. While I believe that I still have a lot to offer HP, on the chance that I will not find a new home here, I wanted to take this time to bid you all a fond farewell (even if I end up staying, it’s a good time to stop and say thank you). I have had the pleasure of working with countless HP employees over the years and developed many outstanding relationships and friendships. It has been an incredible journey and I feel very fortunate to have been part of this great company. I take away with me an understanding that what truly makes a company great is the people – people like all of you. I am honored to have known you all. Thank you for contributing to some of the most rewarding years of my life.Please stay in touch.”At no point has my manager ever communicated to me that there was any “redeployment” in effect that would result in downsizing or employees leaving. Yet this is the 2nd person whom I have heard this about. I raise this just to indicate the lack of basic management 101 that seems to be pervasive. 101 – People talk. In the absence of definitive information from upper management, what they talk about will invariably be more negative than reality.I’m just no longer sure about the HP that I joined years ago, and I wonder where it is broken. I don’t blame the Compaq purchase, I think it was a bold move. I personally think it is current operational management has a bottom line only mentality. Which quite frankly ISN’T the way to build or run a world class company.

  13. Several years ago when HP HR delivered my new-hire welcome packet, in it was a marketing slick of the “Rules of the Garage”–a magical picture of a garage beaming with possibilities. A creative type, an optimist, an inventor, I thought I finally landed home. Hell, even our logo “HP Invent” seemed some mantra in all its’ simplicity for any intrepid individual contributor to expect unlimited opportunities to somehow improve HP’s products or services. It affected me not that I was in sales and not an engineer–after all, the “calling” was for anyone who had ears to hear. With that enthusiasm a newbie can have, I shared my excitement about the ideals espoused about the rules of the garage around the lunch table with newfound colleagues. (In fact, in this cafeteria was a nearly life-sized replica of the HP garage.) My excitement was quickly bowled over by snide cynicism that the marketing hype–was just that. “It’s not really like that here”, they said. But I still believed I would prove them wrong.Many years later, several completely different organizations into my career, I would concur that the HP Way is but a historical remnant that continues to inspire other corporate culture building at other companies, but within our own walls, it rings hollow. Through Mark’s much-needed shakeup, bureaucracy continues to be a malignant cancer infecting every internal policy, procedure, and toolset we use to get our jobs done. Much has been done to simplify HP’s many businesses, yet the net effect of IT consolidation has not been enough, and if anything, has created a growing quagmire of layers upon layers of bureaucracy affecting every employee (wasted productivity), customer (frustrating user experiences), and shareholders (untapped value). We find ultimate irony that one of the main tenaments of the HP Way was the destruction of bureaucracy. Was it 90’s vogue that gushed the KISS principle? I wish the HP decision makers could apply hefty doses of that to internal processes. I once sat in on a training session on one of HP’s quoting tools. The PowerPoint had a graphic showing myriad (9+) dependency databases that pulled, sorted, cross-referenced, validated, and even, yes, looped data back in a sort of circular reasoning fashion. It looked like spaghetti, but the taste-effect of the usefulness of this tool tasted nothing like marinara. The tool was always down or the pricing for the same acme widget could be $0.0023 OR $1,678–it was a mess. 635 moons later I could say the same thing of the horrid processes that run my current business unit. HP makes everything so difficult. The HP Way was very employee-centric. I wish I understood or worked in a time where such a value system existed. I would agree with another commenter, that this type of discussion does come up frequently, that it is important for current employees. We want to feel we are valued, or that our work culture transcends the mediocrity that can arise from daily routines. At the rank & file level, there is a passion to be the best, to contribute to HP’s corporate stewardship. However, we are not seeing this “love” from Mr. Hurd in any initiatives to improve our culture or to build a framework for greatness. The NEW HP Way cares mostly about shareholder value, the bottom line. In short, other than a thankful paycheck, it feels that nothing is special about being an HP employee. And this reverberating sentiment may be the crux of the discussion, on why so many pine for a return to our roots, and a return to Bill & Dave’s better way.

  14. Wow!I never expected such a reaction to my initial article, and I can’t keep up with all the excellent comments this is receiving (I’m busy trying to nail the last few difficult problems with HPVM 4.0, and a few other things require my immediate attention.)But keep sharing your thoughts, whether enthusiastic (HP Way lives on!), putative (Bill and Dave, show me the way), or critical of HP. The more comments there are on this page, the better it will paint today’s HP, for HP employees and managers alike.I’ve not shared my own feelings much on the original post, trying to stick strictly to verifiable facts. That’s part of the HP blogging etiquette. But interestingly, my own personal feelings are quite adequately represented by the variety of comments here. I’m torn between regret for what once was and is gone, interrogation about why we got there and how to repair it, and a lot of unhappiness about the present work environment.Keep talking!

  15. I agree too, and I want to add some of my views and what I see.HP was not the first company I joined after university. In fact, I was a customer for a few years before I joined. I think partly it was the kind of relationship and experience that I had with my HP contacts then that led me to introduce myself to HP when I moved to another country 15 years ago. And after I joined, and read HP Way for the first time, I could see how that was reflected in my previous dealings, and that felt good.What’s changed since then ? or more closely, since Carly ? Just looking at my colleagues from 15 years ago who are still working here today, just about all of them have changed in one of two ways. The first group no longer refers to HP as a career place, but merely a job – Just do what they are told, no more than that. The second group has adapted, and advanced, but all they refer to are numbers and measurements, and hardly do they utter the Customer word anymore. Not a pretty sight particularly when we are talking about the group that really understand how the HP machine works.Another view to see how things have changed is people’s reaction to Workforce Reduction (WFR) news. When we first had WFR, we see people generally sad, some weeping, from their HR interview, and we used to comfort them and encouraging them that they will find another job soon. These days, the first word to come out from many mouths when they hear of someone getting WFR is “Congratulations!”, and recipients are seen laughing to the bank (at least they don’t feel upset anymore). Those I know who have left under WFR in the past 2 years, regardless whether they have found a new job/career, seem much happier, more relaxed, and bright-faced.That said I am not advocating that HP should have remained exactly the way it was. Change was mandatory to survive and grow. Sadly, HP never got its Management of Change act together.About Carly, not everything was bad. I still think she had the right idea about where HP needed to go but had no idea how to make it happen.I think Mark now has a big job ahead to reignite the fire of the old-timers because many have simply lost heart. The financial results may be good, but it can be even better if HP can make use of the corporate intelligence that lies dormant today; or alternately, WFR for them.About 2 years ago, my manager enquired about my reaction to WFR, and I replied that I would not resist hard though I preferred not to get it. Two years later now, it would probably be a good thing…..

  16. The HP Way is dead and buried with Bill and Dave.The first shot was fired into the HP Way when John Young took over the company. Lew Platt allowed the body to lie there, and Carly kicked it in the head.When Mark Hurd got here, there was no HP Way.If you ever go to the corporate “people finder” you will see rows and columns of “VPs” who were raised up in a preppy school environment, got their MBA’s from a prestigious university and then went to work as a VP at a prestigious company that mum and pops held a lot of stock in.HP was not like that, but it has increasingly become so.I feel extremely fortunate, actually blessed, to have lived and worked for Bill and Dave.It is now a company without a soul. Just a shell of the company that Bill and Dave built.

  17. As someone who recently joined HP, with a significant reason being the company reputation, I have to confess I have been dismally disappointed. I will be shortly leaving.What I have seen is lack of integrity, lack of customer focus, lack of care & compassion for people. All-in-all, an antiseptic, soul-less and demoralising organisation to work in, and for. Completely the opposite of what I was expecting (and hoping for).Seems to be a “profits at ANY price” mentality – which I hope there will be a global-pushback on. Unbounded growth, in the natural/organic world, is called CANCER.I think Charles Handy said it best…..”The best organizations to be in, it seems, are the busiest ones as long as they are busy for someone else. The worst are those that are obsessed with their own innards… ” HP is sadly obsessed with its own innards.

  18. I work for HP now, and the HP Way is gone, and HP Way 2.0 is just words that mean nothing. all of the older employees are looking to hold on until they can cash out there stocks and other incentives they have gotten. the new employees the ones straight out of school we don’t know much about anything and we take everything as it is as fact. (I have had the good fortune to have great mentors that have shared with me the real history that scopes back till the ARPA net days) we don’t get real vacation, a real lunch break, and there is no team you work one place your boss is somewhere else and the rest of your team if you have one is miles away so know one is there to share with you or have your back. its not about the work, its not about product, its about dollars and cents. I came looking for HP what I read about what I heard was the best company. With research labs and where you got to create the future. now all we have is policy you do your small piece and pass it along to someone else. I don’t see you you don’t see me. so when it breaks it takes 4 months to fix (where it use to be 4 weeks). HP does to much and is spread to thin and the hand one the helms are a bunch of pencil pushers not the captain’s of industry of years gone by that had the mind to push through change and get the job done. That is what’s is need Masters degrees and PHD with out experience or real world application is futile. I am only 27 this past June 19 and if I can see this surely someone else can.

  19. The HP Way is gone. Mark Hurd continues where Carly left off. The way now is only numbers, headcount, costs, cuts. Retirement benefits cut, repeated cycles of layoff, forced vacation to make quarterly numbers, forced site closures, forced tool retirements, benefits to new hires slashed. There is no respect as an employee, you have no value. You are only a number, you cost too much, you can be replaced by a college hire, and your time is up.

  20. Contrary to the statement made within this blog, the “Rules of the Garage” still exist within HP. Browse to and you will see what I mean.In today’s corporate culture these do look quite childish, in particular the garage analogy. Other IT companies, such as Apple Computer, were also founded in a garage yet no one sees mention of this within their corporate values.Fostering a professional image based on sound ethics is something that HP should be encouraging, to allow it to differentiate itself from its competition within the highly competitive IT market. If you want the best employees then you have to work for them.

  21. Gone (?) but not forgotten. A search for the “HP Way” on the HP Intranet within the last half hour show these Results for HP Intranet search: Results 1 – 10 of 3,257,387 results Next 10 > Best Bets for ‘HP Way’ HP Way.Great article. Really enjoyed it. But factually inaccurate. While there are still those of us who remember, it will never die.

  22. Sir,I do not understand the rationale behind this article but being an HP employee and strong believer of HP way I assume the intent is to re-ignite our passion for HP. First I request you to visit: for our HP values. I do understand and confirm it doesn’t live only in the books. It is still being practiced by most of us day to day especially managers like me. You had two to outline this principle while rest of the world was watching. Similarly you will atleast have a considerable percentage out of 1,70000+ employees practicing HP way and rest of the population complaining due to their lack of understanding. HP way starts from us(every individual) and you cannot expect someone outside you to inspire. Just like this world, you will have both war and peace. Imagine yourselves standing in front of a mirror. What you are/speak is what you see/hear. Thanks again for the article that gave me an opportunity to speak about HP value which I/We believe in.

  23. Let me add my two cents and try to give a different point of view around what the HP way meant to me.The starting point of the meaning is “Respect for the individual”.The way this translated into the day to day operations was that we had a descentralized organizations, they owned their future and performance. Each “division” used to own their profit and Loss (their P&L). This meant that we engineers, managers, sales people, were “empowered and respected to manage and operate the business”. This trigger a lot of innovation because we depended on it, it also meant that we treated each other with great respect because we needed the help, passion and work of every individual, because each division needed each person badly, and each division was empowered to treat and reward their workers and treated them like a family, we were a family.During the Carly times (and I am not blaming Carly, I think she had passion for the company, and wanted to make a better company), she discovered that this organization was highly inefficient, because of all the duplicated activities on each division, and she created the front and the back end, and merged the commond activities. The issue was tha the P&L could only be seen at a very high level, removing the ownership at the worker level, and with that we took away his “ability to control its future”, the individual was no longer trusted, not in a bad way, but in a financial way, which trigger new behaviours, where the cost with analized at a higher level without knowing the people involved, we lost the “respect for the individual” and started focusing on numbers, which by the way we have done a good job. Mark has focus on delivering the numbers.Also I have to acknowledge that the enviroment changed, the margins decreased and we needed a transformation. But I think that transformation eroded the HP way in many aspects.The question that remains unanswered to me, is can we revive the HP way given the economic enviroment. I think the answer is yes, it would be through innovation, the same way the company was born, but today we are achieving growth by doing adquisitions, which is the GE way. Which is easier when you have tons of cash flow (which we do). I do not think in the short term the “respect for the individual will be regained” given the current direction. I do not think the upper management is willing to empower again the people to control their financial destiny.Today, to make desicions about new businesses, products, or even deciding about what to do with people you have to get approval from the Executive Level. We became a larger, more centralized company, more focus on cost efficiencies and execution obtaining grow by doing adquisitions. Certanly the model is working, but it is a different model than the one the old HP people (like me) were used to, and the HP way has changed I think the subject is very relevant, given that “company culture” is what makes companies be succesful in the long run. Comments are welcome ….

  24. The HP of today is not the HP that I have worked with over the years. People are less valued. Perhaps HP was too avuncular and needed to change but the pendulum has swung too far away from the core values. Still a good company but loyalty is now fleeting versus a core value.

  25. It seems to me that since HP is no longer an American company that the HP Way is gone for ever. As a Global Coproration we are striving to become the Walmart of the Technology industry and clearly the Walmart way is not about people. If you think different check out the Walmart Movie documentary AND go verify their facts yourself. I did and was suprised to see everyone I checked out as dead on. Back to the topic though it is hard to live up to the “HP Way” while maximizing efficiencies in human resource operations. The HP Waw was based on mutual loyalty between company and employee. Carly killed that loyalty agreement and Mark has buried it in an unbridled drive to ever greater efficiency.

  26. All,I’ve been very busy lately (HPVM 4.0) and then took a few days off. I’m both happy and surprised to see that the comments kept coming in. There are a few I’d like to address.Anonymous wrote:Contrary to the statement made within this blog, the “Rules of the Garage” still exist within HP. Browse to and you will see what I mean.Interesting, I was not aware of that link. Is it just some stale web site, or is it in your experience presented as up-to-date to HP India employees?JBofAries said that the article is factually inaccurate because the HP Intranet search now gives a “best bet” for HP Way that points to something relevant. First, I did not refer to the Intranet, but to the public face of HP, as you can check by clicking on the link in the article (which is this search). As of today, July 16, 2008, this still does not show any definition of the HP Way. Second, I had also done the Intranet search back then, and it also failed at the time. I’m glad this at least is fixed. It still doesn’t point to the historical HP Way (which was my point), but at least, it points to something relevant. In short, I stand by my facts.Aabrk asks what the rationale is for the article. It was just an observation about how history is written by erasing the past. Of course, I do hope that the HP Way still lives in long-timers heads. But it doesn’t mean anything for former Compaq, Mercury or EDS employees if we don’t tell them. Presently, HP doesn’t tell them, so the HP Way simply does not exist for what is now a majority of HP Employees. If you want the HP Way to live and not just be a fading memory, you have to do more than remember, you have to tell people what it is and why it matters.All other comments are also very interesting, but they were not direct interrogations or criticisms, so by lack of time, I will simply thank their authors collectively 🙂

  27. Not sure what the HP way ever meant if you worked outside the headquarters especially if you worked in a foreign subsidiary. To me it always sounded like a bunch of empty feelgood political slogans.

  28. Although it took a much longer and more painful route, HP has made the same decision that Compaq made when they fired founder Rod Canion and installed Eckhard Pfeiffer. There are two business strategies that will give profitability to a company: innovative, desirable high-end products with flexible, creative organizations, dependent on the best possible work from employees, with high profit margins on each item produced to carry the overhead. (e.g. Herman Miller Furniture) With this strategy the HP Way or something like it is essential.The other strategy goes for mass-production of commodity items dependent on robot-like predictability from employees, with low margins driving eternal cost-cutting, compensated for by huge volumes and their hoped-for economies of scale. High-end products such as VoodooPC or the Bugatti Veyron for Volkswagen are simply marketing loss leaders. The HP Way is an intolerable burden for this strategy.Pre-Compaq, HP chose the second model when Lew Platt spun off Agilent — all the parts of HP that exemplified the first strategy went there. The Agilent diversity statement contains many aspects of the HP Way:”Agilent strives to establish and maintain a best in class work environment. We recognize that diversity is truly a competitive advantage and helps drive innovation. Our Values include: * Creating an inclusive environment that fosters respect for individuals, their ideas and contributions * Realizing the full power of our diverse and global teams, working without boundaries to fulfill the expectations of our constituents * Believing that people want to do a good job and will if given proper tools and support”

  29. Another story to illustrate how far HP has moved from the “HP Way”. I started with HP in the mid-70s (yes, I know that is a long time ago). At that time, the big money for high-tech firms was in defense contracts, and HP was well-positioned to compete — we had technical expertise, a great reputation and excellent government connections. But most projects were large enough to be multi-year in scope, and government procurement regulations required that they be re-bid each year. That meant that, if a company was successful in getting a project, they would need to go out and hire a bunch of people, only to be at risk of losing the project after a year.When a company lost a project, the engineers would also lose their jobs, unless they went to work for the new company that had won the bid. And it was common for the new company to say “we would love for you to come work on this project, but we can’t pay as much as you were getting before.” The engineers were faced with either starting their career over, or accepting a lower salary to stay on the project. This was called “wage-busting”, and the IEEE was very active in trying to lobby changes to the contracting process to stop the practice.In this environment, when there was good money to be made by winning a contract, even for a year, Bill and Dave made a conscious decision not to enter that market. Their reasoning, as it was explained in our HP training, was “if we enter that market, we will not be able to treat our people the way we want to.”Fast forward to the Compaq deal. One of the results of that deal was the first general layoff at HP. The message was “we are sorry, but business conditions require us to take measures we would rather not take.” That was a true statement, but the fundamental decision to invest heavily in the PC market, with its commodity pricing and low margins, was made first. That is the clearest evidence of the complete 180-degree shift in management priorities I can point to. Bill and Dave were always shrewd businessmen, and were aggressive in making sure the business stayed healthy. But they did it in a way where the employees were treated as a valuable long-term part of the business, not just an expendable resource. That is where the intense loyalty was generated, and was well deserved. Today’s HP is still a good company — that is why I am still there. But business decisions are now made in the same way as any other large company, and employees will begin to act as employees of any other large company.I agree that we should do what we can to preserve the HP Way — and on a personal level we can — by treating each other with respect and always trying to work for the common good. But the HP Way also involved a similar link between the organization and the employee, working together for the common good, driven from the top down through all levels of management. That is the part that has been lost. There are enough managers now who don’t know or believe the HP Way, or who know it only through superficial stories, I don’t see it coming back.

  30. I have worked for Hewlett Packard for my entire career (~24 years). I started with HP at the young age of 16 in Palo Alto, California. I grew up on Addison avenue, the same street of the HP Garage. I have always been very loyal to HP throughout my entire career. I continue to feel HP is a good company.I have always idolized Bill and Dave for developing The HP Way. In fact, I was so impressed with this management philosophy that I strived for,and succeeded by landing my first management job at the age of 23. I have been in management, trying to keep the HP Way alive ever since. While taking my MBA ciriculum a few years ago, I wrote my thesis on Corporate Culture and used HP for a lot of source material. I have studied management, and more specifically, the HP Way, significantly for the past 20 years. With my background, I feel that I know a thing or two about this topic and feel compelled to provide input.Yes, HP has changed its management practices to stay competitive. These changes have negatively impacted thousands of long-term, loyal, employees, who gave everything to the company for many years. Many HP employees who have been with the company for a long time recognize these changes and hope that one day it will return to the “good ol days”. Unfortunately, every year that passes, it becomes increasingly more difficult to sustain the values and practices of the traditional HP Way. Benefit programs continue to be cut, employees continue to be considered liabilities rather than assets. We acquire a new company every month, and as a result, the values and management philosophy this company was founded upon, are quickly becoming extinct. Our senior management has not made it a priority to keep the HP Way alive, nor does it encourage its managers to apply it. In fact, it has laid off a large percentage of it’s Human Resources personnel over the past several years. The focus inside of HP is clear – hit your quarterly numbers, or else!The company has prospered over the past few years, but a lot of suffering has been endured by our fellow employees, and many customers have noticed a signficant drop off in quality as large percentages of its highly trained workforce were terminated only to be replaced by newly trained staff members in India, Costa Rica, and other low-cost locations. Today, a very large percentage of HP’s workforce resides in India. In the coming years, HP will expand equally into China to captialize on this emerging market as well. The stockholders and the senior management staff will continue to benefit from this arrangement, and the existing, aging workforce, will continue to endure losses as a result. Employees who have been with the company longer than 10 years will become a target for reduction as their benefit packages will make it attractive to replace the employee with lower cost labor from either India or China.Is HP any different than any other Fortune 100 company? No, HP is doing this to remain competitive. They are aligning with the pack, but as a result, the HP Way will not apply the same way to the majority of employees in industrialized countries, like the United States. HP, once the trend setter in management practices, today is like every other major corporation. How will the EDS acquisition impact the HP Way?While financially I think it makes a lot of sense to acquire EDS, this latest acquisition will put one of the final nails in the HP Way coffin. EDS allegedly brings a completely different management style to the new HP Way Melting Pot. With EDS bringing 140,000 employees (~50% of total employee base) to HP, the EDS Way will change HP forever. I want to emphasize that as of today, I still feel that HP is good place to work. We simply have to accept that our HP Way, which recognized its employees as its greatest asset, is no longer the guiding set of values that will take us into the 21st century. For those long-term HP employees that still remain (like myself), we have an obligation to keep the HP Way alive for as long as possible. Please take it upon yourself to educate others about the way it used to be in the “good ol days.”

  31. Mark Hurd gets a lot of press about being a great leader and all, yet he is the one who is mainly responsible for ending the “HP way”. He has single handedly turned a great company into an Oracle clone. Anything for a profit is the new motto. I only hope that one day, Mark gets his due….

  32. I made my way into HP by way of DEC merged into Compaq merged into HP. I had hopes that the DEC way, “Do the right thing”, would be revived in concert with the HP Way, but it didn’t happen.I agree with “anonymous” regarding people now being glad to be WFR’d. That’s the way I feel about it now that it has happened to me. In the departments that don’t fit into “the plan”, the regular budget cuts just don’t allow for any new development of good stuff for the customers. Basically, there’s no drive to do great new things for the customer because any project is as likely as not to be canceled or staff-reduced before completion. Frustration ensues.

  33. Great article, I joined hp in the late 70s and remember how proud I was to work for HP and everything it stood for. The HP way was the glue that bound us all together, we worked very hard but were very well rewarded and looked after. Yes we had generous benefits like great pensions schemes, great share purchase schemes, medical, sports and social, etc etc.Now that has all gone, all we have now is this one trick pony mark hurd who cuts, cuts and cuts again.He has no talent whatsoever for business and would not hold a candle to bill and dave.The current workforce is totally de-motivated and feel unvalued.We have had pay freezes for the last 5 years, the corporate wide profit share was scrapped in favour of a totally corrupt scheme in which the management choose who gets what !, dont we all work for the same company !!I have really noticed how the car parks are totally empty by 5pm and equally so at 9am, not getting full until after 10am.In short, hp totally sucks as a place to work nowadays, better off working at Walmart and that is saying something….The only people who get something out of working at hp these days are the execs and managers, the staff get nothing, and for that we are made to feel grateful.

  34. It is inevitable for things of this sort to happen, especially in today’s time. Whether you have a large company or not, I think product managers should really take a look into their Product Opportunity Gap (POG) and really see if they can make a difference or not. Many calculations have to be taken into consideration when looking at the company at an All-Around perspective. Judgment’s cannot necessarily be made upon feelings rather logic. Being a business man and reading this, I sincerely think a better alternative could be formed. But, if not, then instead of worrying about losing money, unravel some sort of ‘secret plan’ to your organization to help boost confidence and productivity rate. That’s my personal opinion.

  35. One thing I never hear any more (that we used to hear when they first started making the negative changes) is that Bill and Dave would have approved.I really think they want to eliminate the old culture.I believe that is one of the multiple reasons for the push to relocate certain jobs from sites which were deep into the old culture, to sites that were not part of HP until more recently.(That and trying to force people to just quit, so they can avoid paying any sort of benefit).Anyway, I am seriously considering using the cover of the Book, as a background, to the screens, on an application I am developing.(Internal use only application).

  36. I would never find a better place to read as good comments as this site, never seen before, easy to find easy to understand, and it have serious comments not sick jokes as others, thanks and please keep like this. I would be pretty pleased if you as I do go to my links and maybe post a comment about what you think of mine. Great investment opportunity at Costa Rica

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