Monday, May 12, 2014

A true privilege

In the past eight months, I have had the unique privilege of working again with HP (even getting paid, which at this point in time is a pretty good metric).

The groups have included some Leadership Training seminars, some Leadership Team meetings, and some workshops co-sponsored with Stanford (and even one with Harvard, can you imagine?).

All told, a cross-section of several hundred senior folk from every major group of HP...

The points to make are several:

1. I was uniformly impressed by the MOOD and the OPTIMISM.  The outlook is a cautious, sober, clear-viewed appreciation of how difficult this modern world is--in terms of competition, dynamic product and services definition--but a belief that HP once again can be equal to that challenge.

THIS IS A VERY DIFFERENT and very POSITIVE MOOD and VIEW than the 2002-2012 samples

2. The attitude about, and evident support for, INNOVATION is DRAMATICALLY HIGHER.  This is the sine que non of future success.  Again, there was a perspective that this is IMP:RTANT, nay KEY, for HP to prevail, an attitude that was curiously absent for way too long.

3. The third thing to report is just the QUIET CONFIDENCE that HP is once again acting in a way that makes them PROUD to be part of it, instead of APOLOGETIC.

None of these solve issues like "How is your LapTop selling" or "Why did you miss the mobile phone biz and what are you going to do now?" but those issues were impossible to deal with in a constructive way with the mood and feeling that too long dogged this company.

So, I AM INSPIRED about the perceptions I report here.  Let's hope it translates.

update on "Old acquisitions"

A sharp-eyed reader, actually a true historian, Jon Johnston who founded the HP Computer Museum in Australia (a VERY NEAT SITE), kindly sent a note this weekend, saying my January 7, 2014 post about past HP acquisitions was a bit in error, leaving out Boonton Electronics in 1959.

Ah, why don't I read my own book?  pp. 117-119 of THE HP PHENOMENON chronicle part of the story here, but this includes a bit of 'new info'.  Incidentally, the book is now in second printing, and in the 'new digital age' Stanford says it will stay in print indefinitely, albeit missing the colorful jacket

Actually, there were three acquisitions for HP in 1959, all of them omitted from my blog post.

The first of the three was PAECO, which stood for Palo Alto Electronic Components Operation.  This was a partially-owned company started by Dave and Bill and several members of the Executive team prior to HP becoming a public company.  Thus, in effect, it was a way to get some ownership to others before they could have stock in HP.  PAECO built power transformers, kind of a commodity even then as part of a power supply, and a few other hard-to-find components (e.g. tight-spec wire wound resistors for voltmeters).  Some 30% of PAECO sales were to HP.

The second was DYMEC, formed as a separate company that bought HP equipment and assembled it into systems.  Again, partially owned by Dave and Bill and several exec committee members.  Both PAECO and DYMEC pulled execs from HP as their top mgmt.  DYMEC's logo was HP inverted.  The two shared a building at the 395 Page Mill site.  As you walked from Building 7B to 7C, the logo in the floor read "HP" -- waling the other way it read "DY"  (this used a stylish H and Y).

The third was Boonton Eledronics, in Boonton, NJ.  They built radio frequency signal generators and a few other RF equipments.  I did not tell the story in the book about Barney Oliver being a long-time consultant and part owner for Boonton, where he actually held a couple of patents on sweep linearity compensation for an X-Y display system they built (that didn't sell very well).

Thus in sharp contrast to the Moseley and the Sanborn acquisitions i referenced in the January 7 blog post, these were all somewhat different since they had HP ownership connections (entanglements?).

Four other sidebars on the Boonton acquisition
1. Bob Loughlin Sr. sold Boonton to HP, and served thereafter for many years on the Princeton group that sponsored Albert Einstein and John Nash
2. Bob Loughlin Jr. was the first transfer from an acquired company into a key role for the parent HP
3. Barney's X-Y Display predated mine by nearly a decade, though I still claim the HP 1300A was 'the first commercially successful X-Y Display for computer readouts'.  His knowledge of this arena led to a very critical project review once for me, that was truly unnerving.  Thus, the satisfaction of becoming barney's replacement for the development side of his job when he retired was wonderful
4. Years later, like thirty years later, Dialogic began its operation in the old Boonton facility.  I joined Dialogic as VP R&D five years later, but they had moved by then to a new place three miles away.