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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.  Updated Nov 30, 2019.

(Also see our directory of Books about HP -- many by former employees -- and Bill and Dave on business.)  Questions or comments to: info@hpalumni.org

Recent articles:

- 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 -- developed, edited, and introduced by John Minck -- on the late Marc Mislanghe's personal HP Memory Project site, now operated by Ken Kuhn.

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.

- 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.


- 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.



For more mutual help on this topic and many others, join the independent HP Alumni Association. If you were formerly a regular, direct employee of HP or HPE -- or are in the process of leaving -- join HPAlumni via email. No charge, thanks to HPAA members.

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