Can 'the HP way' return?

You’ve undoubtedly heard—HP plans to split into a personal computer and printer company and a storage, software, and services company. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to trumpet the headline “Hewlett-Packard Set to Break Up 75-Year-Old Company,” as if this were some first-of-a-kind event.

So three or at least two cheers to Will Oremus in Slate for being one member of the mainstream media for highlighting this key fact: “It’s the second time in 15 years the company has spun off a core business—it turned its test-and-measurement division into Agilent in 1999, and it has been reeling ever since.”

He’ll be forgiven for not mentioning this year’s admittedly esoteric spinoff of the test-and-measurement business into Keysight Technologies, which was not a focus of his Slate article.

He writes, “The founders [Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard] were driven not by a particular business model or million-dollar idea, but by the conviction that, in Packard’s words, ‘we were able to design and make instruments which were not yet available.’ The company’s subsequent products established it as a leader in instruments for measuring and testing electronic signals and devices.”

Oremus continues, “Over the years this approach coalesced in a management philosophy known as ‘the HP Way.’ It emphasized problem-solving over profit-chasing and trust in employees over top-down management. It became a blueprint for the semiconductor industry, and then Intel, and ultimately the technology industry as a whole. The company made money—piles and piles of it—but it did it by continually inventing and honing useful products, not by maximizing volume and slashing costs.”

The good old days. Read Oremus’s complete article here.

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