I spent my formative years at Hewlett-Packard. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established set of business principles - encapsulated in the “HP Way” - that seem to me to be as relevant today as they ever were. I’ve certainly done my best to apply them in everything that I’ve done since. And even though the company that created them appears to have forgotten them, I believe that it is worth republishing the 5 principles, and bringing them to the attention of a broader audience...
At the time, the principles must have seemed radical - revolutionary even - to most other companies. They established the importance of respect for the individual, the value of leadership, the importance of integrity, the power of teamwork, and the need for adaptability. These principles drove HP to leadership in many of the markets it chose to compete in. But most important of all, they were not just idle words on a page: they truly reflected the way that the company behaved.
I can remember other companies trying to emulate the the idea. But their proclamations never resonated in the way that The HP Way did - because for us, The HP Way wasn’t just words on a page: it truly reflected how the company and its employees chose to behave. In truth, it doesn’t matter one jot what pompous statements companies make on their web pages or in their corporate mission statements - it matters what they do.
Fast forward to today. I hardly recognise the HP of today from the company I was proud to serve all those years ago. What can you say about a company that is careless enough to have cycled through three CEOs in little more than a year? The sad fact is that the HP of today no longer reflects The HP Way. One of the first things that Meg Whitman, the new CEO, could do is to restore those original values - not through her words, but through her deeds.
I thought that readers might want to be acquainted with the 5 original principles behind The HP Way. I’d encourage you to read them carefully and if they resonate with you, and if they seem - as they do to me - to be as relevant today as they ever were, to think about how you might apply them to your own business.
The HP Way (c. 1992)
We have trust and respect for individuals
We approach each situation with the belief that people want to do a good job and will do so, given the proper tools and support. We attract highly capable, diverse, innovative people and recognize their efforts and contributions to the company. HP people contribute enthusiastically and share in the success that they make possible.
We focus on a high level of achievement and contribution
Our customers expect HP products and services to be of the highest quality and to provide lasting value. To achieve this, all HP people, especially managers, must be leaders who generate enthusiasm and respond with extra effort to meet customer needs. Techniques and management practices which are effective today may be outdated in the future. For us to remain at the forefront in all our activities, people should always be looking for new and better ways to do their work.
We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity
We expect HP people to be open and honest in their dealings to earn the trust and loyalty of others. People at every level are expected to adhere to the highest standards of business ethics and must understand that anything less is unacceptable. As a practical matter, ethical conduct cannot be assured by written HP policies and codes; it must be an integral part of the organization, a deeply ingrained tradition that is passed from one generation of employees to another.
We achieve our common objectives through teamwork
We recognize that it is only through effective cooperation within and among organisations that we can achieve our goals. 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.
We encourage flexibility and innovation
We create an inclusive work environment which supports the diversity of our people and stimulates innovation. We strive for overall objectives which are clearly stated and agreed upon, and allow people flexibility in working toward goals in ways that they help determine are best for the organization. HP people should personally accept responsibility and be encouraged to upgrade their skills and capabilities through ongoing training and development. This is especially important in a technical business where the rate of progress is rapid and where people are expected to adapt to change.