Chuck House and Ray Price are the authors. We were impressed with the relatively unique Hewlett-Packard innovation approach when we teamed in the early 1980’s to write and teach an eighty-hour Project Managers course within HP. Price’s work with Ouchi studying HP culture and practices dovetailed with the perspective that House had just gained while designing and teaching a forty-hour video-based electronics course for GE engineers concerned about mid-career redefinition for a digital world. The two experiences gave each of us an extraordinary view of the diversity and special strengths provided by a radically divisionalized, semi-autonomous organization when it was combined with an expectation of excellence, and a strong encouragement of innovation.[i] Four years of working and traveling together reinforced these views.
More than five hundred employees and others have provided stories, anecdotes, and materials for our consideration. We have gathered far more material than we were able to use; selection has been difficult and often arbitrary. We apologize to all who find that their efforts on our behalf are not adequately reflected herein; many times the mutually re-enforcing aspects of several interviewees were critical for us to be able to include the segment, even as it was impractical to name all who contributed insight to each aspect of the issues. Some perspectives are included from people at other companies, and in places the parallel path of a competitor is traced for a period because of the importance of that segment to HP’s evolution. Inclusions for other companies have been corroborated through Annual Reports and corporate histories.
[i] William G. Ouchi, Theory Z: How American Business can meet the Japanese Challenge, Perseus, 1981. HP and GE (Packard’s first employer) maintained a knowledge sharing arrangement for many years.