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Timeless business lessons from HP history.

HP people talk frankly about what went right – and what went wrong – as this continuous startup grew rapidly for decades. 

Memoirs of HP people. Why Hewlett-Packard was such a special place. Developed, edited, and introduced by John Minck. https://www.hpmemoryproject.org/timeline/company/memories_home.htm 

(On the HP Memory Project site, now operated by Ken Kuhn. https://www.hpmemoryproject.org )

(Also see The HP Way, Bill and Dave on business, and the HPAlumni "HP History" directory. https://www.hpalumni.org/hp_history)

Recent articles:

- Kenneth Jessen joined HP in 1964 and worked in Loveland Manufacturing. "The company has also come a long way in encouraging women and minorities. The attitudes of the day were reflected in corporate culture, and few women or minorities held professional or managerial positions. In a rather demeaning way, female employees were referred to as "gals" or "girls." For the same job classification, women were once paid less. Although attitudes, opportunities and pay have changed, this is not to say things cannot be improved. Today, the employee population is diverse through all levels of the company." (1999)

- When Dick Anderson retired in 1997 as a Group General Manager, Chuck Taubman remembered... "With my first presentation to Dick, just prior to a scheduled B Checkpoint meeting... I recommended to Dick that my project be cancelled. That was a very scary thing for a young engineer to do, but Dick accepted the recommendation and gave me positive feedback." (page 42)

- Norm Tarowsky "When you first hear about a problem or issue, the information you are given is generally inaccurate, certainly incomplete and often misleading. So, don’t jump to a conclusion or solution until you fill in the blanks. If you jump to a solution too early you will spend a lot of time, energy and money defending your choice rather than fixing the problem...  Not every problem needs to be solved... Not every problem can be solved." (page 25)

- Marv Patterson "As is typical on an R&D project in the development phase, one engineer or another would come forward about once a week with an idea for a new feature that we could include in the final product. Usually I would appreciate their idea but suggest that we put it on the shelf until the "B" model entered development. By then we would have some market feedback that would help us decide which new features would best address unmet customer needs." [While leading HP's innovative drafting plotter project It sold for half the price of competing products.]

- Bill Terry: Technology isn't enough. HP developed a laser instrument for land surveyors that was way ahead of the competition. However, the distribution channel was tied up by the traditional surveying instrument manufacturers, who eventually came up with similar technology packaged as an attachment to their existing instruments. HP moved the 200 factory and field people to growing product lines -- but continued to service the installed base. "It was a wonderful high tech product but it just had some real big business challenges." (Pages 7-9)

- Jay Coleman: Editor of Measure magazine. "Open and honest communications that you wouldn't find at most companies then or now." Some significant articles: "Will HP remain true to itself?" "I’m losing my job." "Is HP built to last?" "Is MBWA still alive?"

- Steve Fossi: To turn around a dying business, start by asking the employees what is holding them back (pages 23-26.) Changing your mindset and culture when moving a technology to a different market (pages 27-30.) Six business books Steve found to be very helpful (page 42.)

- Roy Verley: Communicating with employees, stockholders, reporters, and the community: "We simply told the truth." Here are his seven Communication rules to live by. "We’d have to stop speaking engineering-ese to the marketplace." Thriving but missing major industry trends. Change in leadership style. Applying what was learned at HP outside the business world -- "rewarding and restorative."

- Paul Stoft: Driving leading-edge products by digging deeply into the underlying science -- materials science, physics, chemistry, computer science.

- Willi Jirgal: The HP work culture grew up in new places like Böblingen because HP's leadership style allowed people to be effective immediately.

- Hugh Walker: The life and death of the UK HP Way in 40 years.

Scroll down for more articles.

Featured articles:

- Mike Needham: Executive-level sales manager. Insightful examples of how things go right and wrong -- including creatively rescuing a deal for 200,000 PCs.

- Dave Kirby: Master communicator who nurtured the HP Way by putting it into words with Measure magazine and Packard's book.

- Dave Cochran: The flexible organizational culture and rapid decision-making process that made the hugely-successful HP-35 possible (and other adventures at HP.)

- John Minck: "An acrid ball of smoke rose from the machine" -- How to bury one of the CEO's pet projects.

- Marv Patterson: How do you make a product bigger? First, saw a prototype in half.


- Al Bagley: Managing creativity and innovation. Promoting values in a fast-growing company.

- Carl Cottrell: "I had to start doing some technical homework Recovering from slipping quality with a management breakthrough. Building a European sales channel. A strict no-discount policy. Developing a new sales process for a radically different product line

- Bob Grimm: Management pioneer and civic volunteer hero.

- Chuck House: Engineering politics – management, customers, and engineering teams.

- John Minck: Product strategy developed by the product teams. Nurturing a culture of creativity. "An acrid ball of smoke rose from the machine" -- How to bury one of the CEO's pet projects.

- Marv Patterson: How do you make a product bigger? First, saw a prototype in half. Controlling feature creep. Troubleshooting a disastrous failure. How to test market a new product. Breaking a hiring freeze to acquire talent. Eliminating jobs with kindness -- "just high enough to keep me out of jail." Changing behavior in R&D labs. How Packard evaluated all departments at Corporate. Starting a consulting company.

- Ray Smelek: Management; opening new operations overseas; growing successful leaders.

- Alan Steiner: The magic of bringing development engineers on customer visits. Managing a very successful product line that doesn't fit with the rest of the company.

- Cort Van Rensselaer: Packard's fairness to an 18-year-old student. The crucial role of professional salespeople. Stand-alone product divisions. "The wham-bam fast move was wrong." "Many companies under those circumstances would just say bye-bye." The HP style of long-range planning. Innovating in internal use of computers. Debugging the HP 3000.

- John Wastle: Selecting the supplier you trust. Getting the financial folks on your side. A good idea that stemmed from a cultural faux pas.


- John Borgsteadt: "Bill Hewlett showed up, standing behind me and watching me, while I was frustrated with an uncooperative batch of instruments. He thought for a bit, and asked if I had a piece of cardboard handy..." The power of helping your customers make the best use of your product.

- Jay Coleman: Editor of Measure magazine. "Open and honest communications that you wouldn't find at most companies then or now."  Significant Measure articles (Scroll down.)

- Dave Evans: Doing the right thing for the customer "The Field Engineer was so angry with me he didn’t even say goodbye." Process Paralysis: "Some products had even been developed clandestinely."  Be part of your customers' world: If your customers have a trade association, convention, or standard-setting body -- become a key participant.

- Betty Haines: New employee, not recognizing Packard, makes flippant suggestion -- which he implements. The power of a live, company-wide profit-sharing announcement.

- Dave Kirby: Master communicator who nurtured the HP Way by putting it into words with Measure magazine and Packard's book.

- James Robinson: Installing, dismantling, moving – "The Best Job I Ever Had."

- George Stanley: Master teacher – Sales force out of date? Retrain them.

- Barbara Waugh: Techniques to foster change in an organization. Tools for Revolutionaries (Pages 188-189.)


- Les Besser: Father of microwave computer-aided-design.

- Chris Clare: The immense power of using well-thought-out measurement and analysis to figure out how things really work -- and then invent practical solutions. His work ranged from determining why certain types of keyboard are better... through inventing systems to automatically control hundreds of parameters in IC processes -- including the development of industry-wide standards. Along the way, Chris also developed and taught a crash course in digital design to hundreds of HP engineers all over the world -- helping launch the digital era at HP.

- Dave Cochran: How the blockbuster HP-35 handheld came about.

- Jerry Collins: Pioneering the control of test equipment with computers.

- Bob DeVries: Successful products are easy to use. Turning points in work and life.

- Zvonko Fazarinc: Successes – and missed opportunities – at HP Labs.

- Art Fong: Adventures of the engineer who created many of HP's most successful products.

- Jim Hall: The difficult route to the LaserJet's "overnight success."

- Ed Phillips: Overcoming challenging design issues.

- Ted Podelnyk and Bernie Clifton: Color LaserJet. "...didn't realize the magnitude of the effort they were undertaking."

- Bob Steward: LEDs, ThinkJet, Agilent, Lumileds.

- Hank Taylor: Information technology visionary.

- John Uebbing: "Mr. HP Optoelectronics."

- Hugo Vifian: "Mr. Smith Chart" – microwave design engineer.

More on the human side of HP. 

In addition to the employee memoirs listed above, the HP Memory Project site also includes sections on:

- HP People Stories -- including “Bill & Dave” stories.

- Other HP Writings -- interesting and unusual projects, happenings and events.  https://www.hpmemoryproject.org/timeline/time_home.htm 

Updated Sep 16, 2022.  Question? Email: info@hpalumni.org

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