A Letter To Meg Whitman From The Market

Dear Meg,

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!

 

Sincerely,

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?

Comments

Great Comments -- what would I do as HP CEO?

Glenn, excellent and well-focused letter to Ms. Whitman -- let's hope that she's listening!
I wote up some complementary ideas for her predecessor in my blog here: http://marketinganalyzed.blogspot.com/2011/08/hp-gets-ugly-what-i-would-... exploring how HP can leverage its IT Operations portfolio to benefit enterprise customers.

Sadly, so far I see no signs of a compelling strategy.

Shut Up and Mind Your Own Business

This is absolutly stupid. Return to greatness. Return to a yesteryear that all the long termers tend to romanticize?

To what time should HP return to? The time before Leo? The time before Hurd? The time before Fiorina?

Anyone who wishes to return to the past needs to remove their rose color glasses and step in to the present. This is a kill or be killed world. HP needs to learn how to kill.

Stop trying to live in the past. Start learning how to hunt. HP has proven a company can live without a consistant lineage of CEO. And for that fact, why are we really concerned about the CEO. HP's Board needs to be swept up as they are where I would put most of the issues HP has had and not on the shoulders of the past CEOs.

I agree with some of the

I agree with some of the points of view from O'Donnell, but also I would.... If HP decided to keep the PC business unit and the PC world is changing to a mobile approach like tablets... Why kill the WebOS tablets? Doesn't make to much sense, specially when by mistake they create an installed base of the 2nd tablet in the market with the HP touchpad firesale.... Now is time to invest in more research to have a better tablet in term of hardware and continue develop WebOS because this installed based already tested something better than IOS or Android for a Tablet OS....

my two cents...

I agree with some of the

I agree with some of the points of view from O'Donnell, but also I would.... If HP decided to keep the PC business unit and the PC world is changing to a mobile approach like tablets... Why kill the WebOS tablets? Doesn't make to much sense, specially when by mistake they create an installed base of the 2nd tablet in the market with the HP touchpad firesale.... Now is time to invest in more research to have a better tablet in term of hardware and continue develop WebOS because this installed based already tested something better than IOS or Android for a Tablet OS....

my two cents...

Nostalgia or not, a good call

I used to be associated with HP in India. Though I was never wholly-inside, I do remember the joy & enthusiasm of working with HP products, customers and employees. Yes, we did wish sometimes that HP weren't so pricey, but overall, it was still a great experience. So perhaps for the sake of my nostalgia, I do wish to see HP return to its "past greatness" -- the post by "hp employee" not withstanding.

Now I am not associated with HP. In fact a few years ago, I swore never to buy another HP product when I got lousy service for my TC1000 tablet. I actually threw it out with garbage instead of paying for repairs. Yet, I still wish to see HP return to its "past greatness" because my customers and I need a strong company to keep the competition honest (not exactly the dictionary meaning of this word, but close enough) and give us the kind of options we need. Sure we will find other "ways out" in case the un-wished happens. But when we see HP being capable of delivering what we need, why not wish for it?

So why not write to Meg? Write directly to the board (as was glibly put)? Well, what sort of board will wake up ONLY if someone addresses them by name? If that is the case, we might as well keep an epitaph ready.

Meg is listening

Thanks to all for the comments! I hope this dialogue keeps up because your voices matter and more importantly, they are being heard! I received a very nice reply from Meg committing to the principles we all presented. The fact that she is listening is a very good sign!

As to some of the "become an attack dog" versus "let's dwell on the past" positions, HP's success will depend on some of both, but an extreme position to one side or the other is just wrong. Look at the political silliness taking place in every government center and you'll know what I mean.

I am certainly not one to pine for the past. HP does indeed need to get more aggressive, but the heart of a company is its people and the innovative spirit of the collective whole. This is something that made HP great but it has been stifled in recent years. Unleash this spirit, and you unleash a company that can be an even greater force than is was when Hewlett and Packard were in charge!

Please keep the comments coming!
-- Glenn --

Not a matter of pondering over the past glory

What it is all about is defining and communinating direction and focus that can attract the customers. There is nothing wrong about remembering what made the company great. But greatness is a thing that must be continually built and created.

Meg Whitman has gotten off to a good start, she made the right decision in keeping the PC business and could also make the right decision on creating WebOS as a business platform over other operating systems.

On the iOS platforms it could be a challenge, but it could also be an opportunity for Apple to quickly establish a solid and trusted business foundation for Enterprise customers worldwide.

How to build an Enterprise app store that contains apps that can be billed to the enterprise rather than the individual, help the corp organization to re-assume some control over sprawling costs of business applications out of their control. An evernote that linked to the corporation rather than to an unrelated cloud service. A secure corporate Dropbox - I can go on and on. HP can solve the complex problems for the enterprise, while adding tons of value.

As HP industrialize the enterprise IT and enable the organization to once again assume its position as the broker of valued enterprise applications, it will be clear that the same model can be realized and standardized on a service provider scale. The value of the SP would still be achievable through pricing models, business propositions and other value-adds. As such Ms. Whitman has a great opportunity to restore the great company beyond its former glory.

"To infinity and beyond" (Quote: Buzz Lightyear- Pixar 1995)