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The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett And I Built Our Company

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In the fall of 1930, David Packard left his hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, to enroll at Stanford University, where he befriended another freshman, Bill Hewlett. After graduation, Hewlett and Packard decided to throw their lots in together. They tossed a coin to decide whose name should go first on the notice of incorporation, then cast about in search of products to sell. Today, the one-car garage in Palo Alto that housed their first workshop is a California historic landmark: the birthplace of Silicon Valley. And Hewlett-Packard has produced thousands of innovative products for millions of customers throughout the world. Their little company employs 98,400 people and boasts constantly increasing sales that reached $25 billion in 1994.

While there are many successful companies, there is only one Hewlett-Packard, because from the very beginning, Hewlett and Packard had a way of doing things that was contrary to the prevailing management strategies. In defining the objectives for their company, Packard and Hewlett wanted more than profits, revenue growth and a constant stream of new, happy customers.

Hewlett-Packard' s success owes a great deal to many factors, including openness to change, an unrelenting will to win, the virtue of sustained hard work and a company-wide commitment to community involvement. As a result, HP now is universally acclaimed as the world' s most admired technology company; its wildly successful approach to business has been immortalized as "The HP Way."

In this book, David Packard tells the simple yet extraordinary story of his life' s work and of the truly exceptional company that he and Bill Hewlett started in a garage 55 years ago.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1995

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David Packard

21 books7 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews
Profile Image for Bryan Murdock.
211 reviews3 followers
October 31, 2011
Incredible little book about what was once one of the best places to work. I might have been brainwashed by the old-time HPers that I used to work with, but I think the ideas in this book on how to run a company are excellent. The presentation is simple and to-the-point, with some good stories to go with it. Along with my interactions with people at work, it helped me think about how I treat my children too. I can do better, and this book has inspired me to do so.
Profile Image for David Sasaki.
244 reviews346 followers
December 9, 2015
I read this book to better understand the culture of my new employer, the Hewlett Foundation. I ended up learning so much. Until recently I had mistakenly thought that HP was a computer company that eventually got into the printer business. I didn’t realize that HP started out as a scientific instruments company that began designing and manufacturing various products that I had to look up in the dictionary: audio oscillators, wave analyzers, distortion analyzers, proximity fuses.

I remember choosing between a Texas Instruments or Hewlett Packard calculator when I was in high school, but I had no idea that HP released a wristwatch calculator in 1977 — the Apple Watch of its day — for between $2,500 to $3,300 in 2014 dollars depending on your preference of stainless steel or gold. Nor did I know that Dave Packard worked in the Department of Defense at the height of the Cold War and Vietnam conflict.

As far as business memoirs go, this one is a relative joy to read. Packard is a likable narrator who is self-confident enough to not seek credit for every HP accomplishment. If anything, he celebrates when HP was successful in spite of his decisions, such as when a maverick engineer designed a highly successful monitor that Packard and others had unwisely tried to kill off. If Packard takes pride in anything, it is not giving into the greed and luxury of the business class. When some Chinese executives visit his house, he heads to his woodworking workshop to make some chopsticks out of redwood. When Hewlett and Packard invited executives and politicians on deer hunting trips, they each were expected to lend a hand in washing dishes and cleaning up.

In the 1980s, when the economic slowdown forced the company to consider laying off 10% of its staff, Hewlett and Packard asked their employees if they’d instead be willing to reduce the number of days they work each month from 20 to 18, and take a temporary 10% reduction in salary until the economy improved. They did, enjoying longer weekends and temporarily tightening their belts until the economy improved and everyone went back to full time employment without having had to lay anyone off.

It’s easy to romanticize the past, but Hewlett and Packard really do seem to have had a stronger moral code than most entrepreneurs and business leaders today. It’s hard to know from a single book, but they seemed more sure of themselves, their values, and their ambitions compared to the business leaders you see in Silicon Valley today. I think there are two reasons for this. First, Hewlett and Packard both grew up with the values of taking individual responsibility for effort while contributing to community with their work. Today’s entrepreneurs are more worried about the valuation of their startup and retaining control over their boards. Second, HP was manufacturing actual products that made a clear contribution to electric engineering, if not society. Today, the most successful companies in Silicon Valley create “platforms” that are ultimately vehicles to sell advertisements, or to be acquired before they even make a profit.

The HP Way is a useful book for someone like me wanting to learn more about the culture of the Hewlett Foundation. It’s a great book for a business leader thinking about the legacy of her or his company.
Profile Image for Christopher Lewis Kozoriz.
825 reviews263 followers
October 4, 2018
"Everywhere I look I see the potential for growth, for discovery far greater than anything we have seen in the twentieth century." (David Packard, The HP Way, Page 192)

David Packard, the founder of HP, autographs the founding of his company and his relationship with Bill Hewlett, the co-founder. Both are credited with starting Silicon Valley.

This book takes you from the early days of them starting off in a garage, then expanding into other product lines and then becoming a multi-national corporation.

There is much management advice in this book. For example, two of the principles that he mentions are:

* Management by Objective (MBO); and
* Management by Walking Around (MBWA)

He then talks about his stint in the public service and becoming Deputy of The Department of Defense. Then coming back to private practice and resuming work on his business. Then getting involved in philanthropy, which he explains is defined from the Greek word that means "lover of mankind."

At the end of his book, I inwardly chuckled when he said, "Recently there has been much discussion about developing an information superhighway." Of course, he was speaking about the internet, but the book was published when Windows 95 was just coming out.
Profile Image for Omar Halabieh.
217 reviews62 followers
September 1, 2012
As the title indicate this book is about the story of Hewlett Packard as told by one of the founding partners David Packard. This book offers a corporate history of how the company started from the infamous garage into a global enterprise, but more importantly focuses on the guiding principles on which this company was built - the HP Way.

What stands out in the HP Way is the deep commitment and belief in values and principles. These radiate from the founders and affect everyone and everything at HP. The HP Way covers all aspects of operations within the company and with external stakeholders (customers, shareholders etc.) in a way that transcends time and specific technologies (see below excerpts). Almost half a century later most of what is discussed is just as relevant than as it is now.

HP is currently in a desperate need to revive the HP Way and transform itself in order to turn itself around and succeed in the future. A highly recommended read.

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "...it has been a guiding principle in developing and managing HP. Get the best people, stress the importance of teamwork, and get them fired up to win the game."

2- "We published a second version of the objectives in 1966 and they are as follows...1) Profit: To recognize that profit is the best measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength...2) Customers: To strive for continual improvement in the quality, usefulness, and value of the products and services we offer our customers...3) Field of Interest: To concentrate our efforts, continually seeking new opportunities for growth but limiting our involvement o fields in which we have capability and can make a contribution. 4) Growth: To emphasize growth as a measure of strength and a requirement for survival. 5) Employees : To provide employment opportunities for HP people that include the opportunity to share in the company's success, which they help make possible. To provide them job security based on performance, and to provide the opportunity for personal satisfaction that comes from a sense of accomplishment in their work. 6) Organization: To maintain an organizational environment that fosters individual motivation, initiative, creativity, and a wide latitude of freedom in working toward established objectives and goals. 7) Citizenship: To meet the obligations of good citizenship by making contributions to the community and to the institutions in our society which generate the environment in which we operate."

3- "An important element of the HP Way has to do with the company's relationship with its shareholders and the investment community. A primary objective in this area is to provide consistency in our corporate performance, including steady growth in earnings and equity."

4- "At that time our policy at HP was to regard increased market share as a reward for doing things well - for providing customers with superior products and services and keeping our costs down. This has been a basic policy from the very beginning of our company, and we expect it to continue in the future."

5- "The key to HP's prospective involvement in any field of interest is contribution. Our objective is to expand and diversify only when we can build on our present strengths, and with the recognition that we have the proven capability to make a contribution. To meet this objective, it is important that we put maximum effort into our product-development programs. This means we must continually seek new ideas for new and better kinds of products."

6- "The fundamental basis for success in the operation of Hewlett-Packard is the job we do in satisfying the needs of our customers. We encourage every person in our organization to think continually about how his or her activities relate to the central purpose of serving our customers."

7- "...gains in quality come from meticulous attention to detail and every step in the manufacturing process must be done as carefully as possible, not as quickly as possible. This sounds simple, but it is achieved only if everyone in the organization is dedicated to quality."

8- "It's imperative that there be a strong spirit of helpfulness and cooperation among all elements of the company and that this spirit be recognized and respected as a cornerstone of the HP Way."

9- "Although we minimize corporate direction at HP, we consider ourselves one single company, with the flexibility of a small company and the strengths of a large one - the ability to draw on corporate resources and services; shared standards, values, and culture; common goals and objectives; and a single world identity."

10- "I should point out that the successful practice of management by objective is a two-way street. Managers at all levels must be sure that their people clearly understand the overall objectives and goals of the company, as well as the specific goals of their particular division or department. Thus, managers have a strong obligation to foster good communication and mutual understanding. Conversely, their people must take sufficient interest in their work to want to plan it, to propose new solutions to old problems, and to jump in when they have something to contribute."
Profile Image for Erin.
625 reviews7 followers
August 7, 2011
I read this in the 6th grade for a project on a famous person. Looking back I'm such a nerd. My dad worked for HP and I think was proud of ne for reading such a book!
Profile Image for Jon.
128 reviews5 followers
June 27, 2010
A decent book. Nothing revolutionary in the context of contemporary management ides and techniques. However HP was revolutionary during their formation and have been so in their 70 years of existence. The late Dave Packard wrote this book at age 83 in 1995. Some of the radical changes within HP were not yet foretold. Such as the dawn of the internet age, its subsequent boon and their merger with Compaq. I would love to see a revision to this memoir. Additionally the division structure that Dave highlights as the essence of HP success is no longer within HP. But as he highlights the company has changed as the times require so. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see that the founders Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett were humanist first, entrepreneurs second. Even more amazing was their level of creations coupled with their organizational ability. This was a book that provided a brief history of the company and some of its successes. I did find the book however lacked a lot of details as it essentially covered 56 years of HP and Dave Packard's entire life in 196 pages of large font.
137 reviews12 followers
May 16, 2012
I love reading Autobiographies from authors who were pioneers in their field during their time. This book though definitely old in its ideals and some of the management ideas that it talks about, is the best and succinct account of how HP became what it is today. It was interesting to know that some of the management ideas that we take for granted today in small and big corporations never existed during their time. But at the end, I felt I would've been more satisfied if there were few more pages with little more details.
Profile Image for Rachel.
142 reviews3 followers
August 29, 2007
As an Agilent (formerly HP) employee, this book was very interesting to me. Bill and Dave were true revolutionaries. They started with nothing and built one of the greatest technology companies in the world.

Dave tells the story of how he and Bill founded the company and how they developed the core values that are now known as the HP way. Two very simple men started something huge.

If you're not familiar with HP, you would not enjoy this book.
Profile Image for LeikHong Leow.
171 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2012
As an engineering graduate, I used to dream I could work in a company like HP (or Agilent in my case); but i never went into the factory and i don't think i ever will. Reading this book is like viewing back the history on how 2 greats man had build one of the world greatest engineering firm with their dream and passion. HP in way had develop great management practice and culture for many great business leaders around the world. Some had benefited from it's including myself.
Profile Image for Lamec Mariita.
Author 0 books19 followers
January 6, 2013
It's interesting to read how Hewlett Packard has grown from the little garage workshop to the large corporation it is today. David Packard and Bill Hewlett have build a truly amazing organization basically from scratch. There's not too much detail in this book but that makes it interesting and nice to read. Sometimes these types of books can be filled with justifications for mistakes, or can be written just to serve the ego of the author. Not this book. This book was honest and sincere.
24 reviews
November 26, 2011
Classic and very traditional approach to building a business from the ground up. Refreshing read among all the current hyper innovative approaches stressing the need to only work 4 hours, etc. Slightly arrogant aura which was unpleasant, though expected.
Profile Image for Julio Thames.
151 reviews
January 7, 2012
La filosofía se perdió totalmente.Ahora son una máquina de hacer dinero sin importar que. Ante todo precio, la calidad no es importante; por eso sus productos/servicios no son de buena calidad. 0 estrellas!
36 reviews
October 11, 2010
Interesting stories, admire their risk taking. Nice reminders about management by walking around and management by objectives.
113 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2011
A great read for leaders of technology companies, to understand how to manage technology and people, while trying to grow profit and keep people motivated.
January 23, 2013
Not well written, but it was nice to read about the company that gave me a shot right outta college.

Holy inverted sentences, Batman.
Profile Image for Bill Zhou.
54 reviews16 followers
March 29, 2013
The HP Way is the soul of Hewlett-Packard Corp.

After merging with Compaq, they lost the HP Way.

Carly, this is not your fault.
1 review
November 24, 2021
For me this was (literally) a life-changing book. After reading it (and a 1991 Harvard Business Review article by CTO Chuck House) during grad school in 1995, I sought out HP as an employer.

After a few years in the workforce, I had wondered why so many companies - for a lack of a better word - sucked. Why were managers afraid to make decisions? Why was the focus so tactical vs. strategic? Where did productivity-sapping work practices come from? Didn't anyone care about the broader role of the company in the community?

The short answer was "culture". If "The Dilbert Principle" shined a light on what was going wrong in corporate culture, "The HP Way" suggested that a better way was out there - and was wildly successful.

I landed a job in one of their Test and Measurement businesses. This led to a path that included spin-offs to Agilent and Keysight (as well as half a decade exploring "greener" pastures). It was one of my better decisions.

The core tenants of The HP Way hold up. If you look at the many companies that branch directly from the HP tree, as well as the broader Silicon Valley culture that flourished in the ecosystem that the company created, you can see how the companies that hew to this culture differ from the ones that drift from it (I'm looking at you, HPQ and HPE).

When reading The HP Way, it's important to differentiate between practices and principles. Practices change with the times and can seem dated when looking back. Principles are eternal. Business casual dress is a practice. Respect for employees and their comfort is a principle. So yeah, Bill and Dave didn't have on-site day care and barber shops like Google does. But they also wouldn't offer a "perk" that was a ploy to squeeze extra productivity out of employees at the expense of personal or family time. HP believed in measuring results. It helped them make rational decisions. But they would never weaponize it like Amazon for the use of exploiting suppliers or training AI on which warehouse workers to fire.

There's a reason that this is a foundational business text. It's written by a Pueblo rancher. A nerd. A conservative businessman. But within its pages are the pragmatic and humane keys that can help you build a successful business organization that represents capitalism at its finest.
65 reviews
June 23, 2018
The HP way is a brilliant, succinct narrative of everything right that happened with the company with the coveted title of "the birthplace of Silicon Valley" by the supremely talented co-founder, Mr. David Packard. A book such as this is an inherently rare and precious opportunity to dive into the heads and thinking process of the founders of the companies that were built to last. Mr. Packard being a brilliant and not to mention an extremely privileged kid himself teamed up with another similarly talented and privileged Bill Hewlett when they were undergrads at cradle of silicon valley- Stanford University to start a company not with a clear product in mind, but definitely with a clear vision of how they are going to manage the company. It was quite interesting to learn that today's computer company started out as an instrumentation company and was one for a long time before revolutionizing the printer industry. Dave Packard gives away several gems of managing a creative team of talented engineers such as Management by Objective and Management by Walking Around(MBWA). As a creative design engineer myself who worked at a firm which had MBWA, I cannot tell you how much beneficial that technique is in shaping and guiding the careers of young creative engineers- Mr. Packard was onto something in 1939 when he brought this lesson with him from the shops of GE to HP. He also shows how a technology company was able to survive many rounds of revolutionary changes- from being an instrument company servicing the scientific company to being the number one printer company to go on and dominate the personal computer business, by adapting and embracing change. Mr. Packard is self-confident enough to give credit to his employees for coming up and fighting for the technologies that shaped HP's success going so far as admitting HP management's lack of vision when they shut down a project that invented the 32-bit computing system. Mr. Dave Packard also laid down what is now a commonly accepted road map of the Corporate - Society Relationship program when he included in his HP way, the principal of the company being a good neighbor.

All in all, this one of that rare gem of a book that provides a compass for anyone starting a company that is built to last.
109 reviews3 followers
March 14, 2021
Ideas I have found useful:
- also realize that the individual who is doing a worthwhile job is working because he feels he is accomplishing something worthwhile.
- We must realize that supervision is not a job of giving orders; it is a job of providing the opportunity for people to use their capabilities efficiently and effectively.
- Attention to detail is as important in manufacturing as it is in engineering.
- That was a very important lesson for me—that personal communication was often necessary to back up written instructions. That was the genesis of what became “management by walking around” at the Hewlett-Packard Company.
- Profit. To recognize that profit is the best single measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength. We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives.
- Those firms that did not borrow money had a difficult time, but they ended up with their assets intact and survived during the depression years that followed.
- To my mind, flextime is the essence of respect for and trust in people. It says that we both appreciate that our people
Profile Image for Santosh Mutyala.
14 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2022
This quick-read tome offers a snippet of the growth of desktop instrumentation tools that everyone in the engineering and scientific field regularly uses. Turn around in your lab, and you will find several instruments which were directly or indirectly developed by HP or by someone who worked at HP at one point in time. Steve Jobs was one such person who had a brief stint at HP where he played around with oscilloscopes and other such tools, which sowed the seed to develop a personal desktop computer and eventually to the handheld computing devices.
The book highlights how this company was the pioneer in electronic measurements and logging instruments, without which there would have been no Silicon Valley. Starting from the way they decided on the company’s name by tossing a coin to starting a company in a one-car garage space to growing into a multi-product, multi-state, and later multi-national company, they were innovative in every aspect. Not only that, HP was the mother of several corporate & management mantras (Open door policy, Management by Objective, profit-sharing, etc.), which eventually became a norm in every corporation. It surprises how a two-person team starting from ground level built an entire spectrum of electronic products, which later led to several other inventions in engineering, military, medical and other areas of public life. Author David Packard has specifically cited the role of Fred Terman. The latter was a professor for one of the Radio courses Bill and David had enrolled in while studying at Stanford. Terman was a ‘Guru,’ guide, and friend to Bill and David. I feel that Stanford Professor - Fred Terman had a much more significant role in laying a foundation for the idea of starting their own company and ‘chauffeuring’ them to the international arena. David Packard credited Fred for his advice and deeds in taking HP from an idea to reality.
Profile Image for Andy Parkes.
366 reviews8 followers
August 10, 2021
I didn't actually know too much about the history of HP

This does a really great job of filling that gap in a nice concise manner while along the way describing the values and thoughts behind "The HP Way" of running an organisation. When you're reading it in a modern context a lot of what it talks about seems to be common sense for a large modern company

Treat your staff well, give them responsibility and autonomy where you can, try and do good things in the wider community (etc, etc)

But then you remember HP were started in 1939! A lot of the things they were doing at the time no one else was doing.
The last part of it veered off into David Packard's time in the US government which I didn't find quite as interesting but on whole this was a good read
Profile Image for Aiman Adlawan.
117 reviews2 followers
April 4, 2020
HP Way is really one of the best ways to run a company. Its core business principles centered not only among the owners and proprietors but also for the customers and more importantly the employees who create ideas for a sellable product and the employees who build that product for shipment and selling.
My brother used to work in HP company and they have that 'picnic' or get together regularly. Its one of the ways to take care of employees. Also, not like Edison who takes credit for all of his employees invention, HP gives credit to his employees which is great.
The book is like an easy read and David Packard, as the author, is really writing this with his own true experience.
Profile Image for Fabian.
403 reviews44 followers
January 6, 2020
Interesting but don’t fall prey to the narrative fallacy by trying to predict future billon dollar companies on the things done right by HP ... people often search for „success rules“ forgetting that the larger context, the people, the economy, technology state etc. can’t be replicated.

Other then that it’s unfortunate how HP lost its way by playing not to lose instead of playing to win (innovate). Once the founder leaves companies almost always seem to lose their innovative DNA (see Apple today).
107 reviews2 followers
May 30, 2018
A very good read, the book's written straight from the Founders' heart and he does a fantastic job of articulating the company's story, ethics, and values. It's a business-centric storytelling without too much focus on the timeline. The only sad part is that the company today is not reflective of its past beliefs, values, and innovation.

HP truly deserves to be in the pantheon of tech giants that paved the path to Silicon Valley and rightfully so.
Profile Image for Michael Aloo.
4 reviews
August 3, 2020
It's a great book if you are looking for small bits of wisdom here and there and for sure, it is not like those other ordinary biographies that I have seen and read because the author is mostly talking about the various ways he influenced and the "HP Way" Influenced his working life up and until 1994
141 reviews1 follower
September 25, 2020
Very interesting progression of the building of HP. A lot of it seems like it was a stroke of luck with good managing (I guess I just really hope that it was as stated in the book and not made to look pretty in the rearview mirror). From working at HPI as an intern, it seems like a lot of the ideals are still around from this book, so that is at least a good thing!
Profile Image for Chua.
37 reviews
November 3, 2018
Good insight on how David Packard and Bill Hewlett started their company that started Silicon Valley. A lot of their principles were revolutionary and started the trend in other Silicon Valley companies.
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