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Posted by Glenn O'Donnell on November 3, 2011
Now that you’ve settled into your latest position as the head of Hewlett-Packard, we wish to make a request of you. That request is, “Please take HP back to the greatness it once represented.” The culture once known as “The HP Way” has gone astray and the people have suffered as a result. Those people are of course the vast collection of incredible HP employees, but also its even vaster collection of customers. They (ahem, we) once believed in the venerable enterprise that Bill Hewlett and David Packard conceived and built through the latter half of the 20th century.
HP became renowned for its innovation and the quality of its products. While they tended to be pricey, we bought HP products because we knew they would perform well and perform long. We could count on HP to not only sell us technology, but to guide us in our journey to use this technology for the betterment of our own lives. We yearn for the old HP that inspired Steve Jobs to change the world – and he did!
We need not remind you of what transpired over the past decade or so, but we do have some suggestions for what you should address to restore the luster of HP’s golden age:
- Commit to a mission. HP needs an audacious mission that articulates a purpose for every employee, from you and the HP board all the way down to the lowest levels. Borrow a page from IBM’s Smarter Planet mission. While it sometimes seems over the top, that’s the whole point. It is over the top and speaks to a bold mission to create a new world. Slowly but surely, IBM is making the planet smarter. Steve Jobs got Apple to convince us to Think Different, and we did. What is HP’s mission?
- Formulate a real strategy to achieve the mission. HP doesn’t appear to have a real strategy. Sure, it has a plan to expand its presence in cloud computing, software, services, and other areas. Pardon us while we yawn. Every other technology company has the same plans. HP will win in some areas and lose in others. That isn’t a strategy. The strategy must be inextricably linked to the mission and it cannot be a “Me too” plan. HP needs to be different. HP is different. Without a genuine strategy, it won’t be different for long.
- Keep acquiring, but innovate on your own too. We remember when the “HP invent” logo conveyed a theme. It seems the way to attack new markets now is to acquire into them. This is of course an important option, but HP will differentiate based on what it invents itself. HP is an engineering company. Let your engineers engineer the future. You have one of the finest research engines in HP Labs. Productize the great ideas coming from that esteemed institution. Other great corporate research labs are either a shell of what they once were or they are gone completely. Think Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. HP can and must build solutions that will change the world – again. We insist.
- Lay low and lead. HP doesn’t need a celebrity CEO. It had that and it didn’t work. HP doesn’t need a ruthless cost cutter. It tried that too and it was even worse. HP needs inspirational leadership, the kind of person who will sacrifice their own glory and goodwill for the glory and goodwill of HP’s customers and more importantly, HP’s employees. You have a treasure trove of talent within HP. Empower your employees to use their talents the ways they know best. If you set this talent free, HP will accomplish greatness, your customers will be delighted, and YOU will be a legend. Bill Hewlett and David Packard were brilliant, but their real brilliance was in knowing that two people do not build a legendary enterprise. It takes thousands more. They were empowering leaders, not mere managers. Your people will restore HP if you let them. This is what “The HP Way” was all about. It can be again.
We are glad you decided to stay in the PC business, or shall we say, “the personal systems business.” Rumors of the death of the PC are premature, but it’s clear we are entering another stage in the continuing evolution of the “PC” that extends our ability to interact with the world around us. The future may not be a PC, but it will build upon the same genetic foundation. HP needs to be a leader in this trend if it wants to be a relevant technology partner to business! Kudos to you for your courage to reverse this decision of your predecessor.
Bill and David would be mortified by what’s become of their baby. So are we – the people who once respected their baby and gave it life with our loyalty. Please resurrect their baby by focusing on the legendary spirit of innovation that welcomed risk, rewarded the successful risks, and didn’t punish the risk takers that didn’t quite pan out. The HP baby’s DNA is still alive and well. It lives within your people. It just needs to be nourished and nurtured the way Hewlett and Packard did for decades!
Infrastructure and Operations professionals worldwide
I&O Professionals: What do you want to see HP do in the future? What would YOU recommend Meg Whitman do as she works to reinvent HP?
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