Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bandler got it right

Wow!  Check it out.  We finally have a great 'insider' story, thanks to an intrepid reporter, James Bandler of Fortune, in the May 21, 2012 (yes, Virginia, the magazine stand date bears no resemblance to when the story emerges) Fortune, entitled "How HP lost its way".

Bandler interviewed seventy key folk in lots of arenas, and got some incredible material into the story.  Leo is 'the fall guy', but he gets exonerated more than many might expect.  Ray Lane comes off poorly in this account, while Cathie Lesjak (who usually stays behind the curtain) exhibits more character and traditional HP ethics than anyone else described.

The Lane and Hurd descriptions are not too different than the Valley already knew, but the Board infighting makes the drama around Carly / Hewlett or Patti Dunn / Tom Perkins seem almost tame. 

One of the more insightful 'signals' that Bandler aptly reports is the 'razorwire compound' for the executive parking lot, which stunned Meg Whitman the day she first drove to it (and had it torn down to her credit).  Bandler didn't mention that Hurd probably felt he needed the security since at NCR, he had repeatedly had his tires slashed by seething employees.  Bandler did report the missing 85,000 chairs (that is right -- EIGHTY-FIVE THOUSAND chairs) that Hurd failed to buy for the new EDS team, and he also drew a wonderful portrait of the spiders from broken ceiling tile, and the mice scampering about inside HP buildings.  A cartoon of the 'lights out at 6pm' order at HP Fort Collins graced the article.

The article, at least the piece that I've seen so far, fails to describe much of the technology insights or the awful infighting around the disastrous TouchPad launch, or the idiotic exorbitant purchase of Autonomy, but it does give a clear picture of the disarray at the Board and executive level during these episodes.

When finished, the article certainly does a damning indictment of HP's current situation, ironic since it appears the same day that Jeremy Owens at the San Jose Mercury-News noted that HP regained its spot in the Fortune 10 (on revenue) while Apple was only 17th.   This is one of those transitory things, though, since the past two quarters show Apple nearly one-third larger than HP, and its momentum is up while HP's is ... ummn, "down".

Saturday, May 5, 2012

HP memories vs reality today

Marc Mislanghe has been busy compiling memoirs of oldtimer HP types at http://www.hpmemory.org/   New entries include Hank Taylor, Jim Hall, Art Fong, John Minck, and myself -- a small panoply of perspectives from yesteryear.  You might say, "WHO CARES?"

The answer could very well be -- "well, it seems like a thousand people a day care" to judge from the Google Analytics.  Not bad for an obscure website from a southern Frenchman near Birrritz, France who has been collecting HP instruments and computers for a decade "just 'cuz he loves 'em"

Each of these memoirs offers a glimpse inside a company that valued initiative and innovation at every job, every level of the company.  They speak volumes to the idea that "bottoms-up" innovation works, and mostly works better than leadership at the top because, as Packard insisted, "those closest to the problem are the best ones to see a solution to it."

I don't have a favorite in the set, but I will especially mention Taylor's memoir, just because it focuses on innovation in Corporate Infrastructure, rather than products or field sales or marketing -- and such contributions are both harder to see and more systemic -- hence very seldom do they get mentioned.  Ray Price and I found so much of this that we devoted a chapter -- "Secret Sauce" -- to it in our book HP Phenomenon.  Hank does a first-rate job of describing this in multiple efforts at HP.