Resurrecting HP - 2010...
to Letters
Site Navigation Bar
Home Page The Lessons Falk's Laws Letters To... Woodcraft About Me Links Crazy Ideas? For Sale
Golden Rescue No, It's Not! Books->Movies   No Shit! WTF?! News In Memoriam... Gift Registry

2010-09: Dilbert hits another one out of the park, with some comments from HP and ex-HP friends...


  • 09.24.2010... Roadmap for HP, courtesy of Fortune Magazine...

    A few excerpts...

    FORTUNE -- 3M is everywhere. That's the point George Buckley, the chairman and CEO of 3M, is trying to make as he talks about his favorite subject, inventing things. Last year, he says, "even in the worst economic times in memory, we released over 1,000 new products."

    3M has long been synonymous with innovation. Founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., it has deployed a range of practices to promote out-of-the-box thinking.

    In another unusual practice, 3M awards annual Genesis Grants, worth as much as $100,000, to company scientists for research. The money is allocated by their peers and is spent on projects for which "no sensible, conventional person in the company would give money," says Chris Holmes, vice president of 3M's abrasives division.

    Despite such practices, many inside and outside 3M, including Buckley, think 3M lost some of its creative juice under James McNerney, the acclaimed GE alum who led the company from 2001 to 2005 and is now CEO of Boeing (BA, Fortune 500). It's not that McNerney, the first outsider to run 3M, did a poor job. The company had become sluggish, and McNerney whipped it into shape. He streamlined operations, laid off 8,000 people, and imported Six Sigma management techniques, popularized by GE, to analyze processes, curb waste, and reduce defects. "He brought the discipline and the focus on execution we needed," says Mark Colin, who oversees a 3M business that makes products for mobile devices. Earnings grew, margins improved, and shareholders cheered.

    But the efficiency gains came at a price. Scientists and engineers griped that McNerney, an MBA, didn't understand the creative process. Six Sigma rules choked those working in the labs. "It's really tough to schedule invention," says Craig Oster, a mechanical engineer who has been with 3M for 30 years. (Boeing said McNerney would not be available for comment.)

    "Our business model is literally new-product innovation," says Larry Wendling, who oversees 3M's corporate research. The company, as a result, had in place a goal to generate 30% of revenue from new products introduced in the past five years. By 2005, when McNerney left to run Boeing, the percentage was down to 21%, and much of the new-product revenue had come from a single category, optical films. (3M also has a history of acquisitions and has announced deals recently.)

    The board turned to Buckley, now 63, who had demonstrated his business chops as CEO of Brunswick, an Illinois company known for bowling gear and boats. But the most important thing to know about Buckley, a Brit with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, is that he's a scientist at heart who has several patents to his name. In other words, he's a good fit for 3M. "This is to me an engineer's and scientist's Toys 'R' Us," Buckley says.

    Above all, Buckley has been an outspoken champion of the labs. Last year, despite the recession, he kept R&D spending at more than $1 billion. Says management guru Ram Charan, who advises 3M: "George has accelerated the innovation machine by devoting his personal time, his energy, his focus, to empowering the researchers, opening up their minds and urging them to restore the luster of 3M." The results speak for themselves: The percentage of 3M's revenue from products introduced in the past five years is back to 30% and may reach the mid-30s by 2012.

    Six Sigma remains in force in 3M's factories, but it's gone from the labs. Each of 3M's six major business units has its own research lab, which is product-focused, while the corporate research staff works on core technologies that are shared by all the businesses. Altogether, 3M employs 6,500 people (out of about 75,000) in R&D.

    It's safe to say that no 3M product will generate the buzz of, say, the next iPhone. But 3M has never been about inventing the Next Big Thing. It's about inventing hundreds and hundreds of Next Small Things, year after year.

    If you replace "3M" with "HP" in most places, wouldn't that seem to describe a good path to follow for HP's future? Ah, but what do I know?


  • 09.11.2010... from Our Man in Ellison, Oracle, Hurd and HP:

    Tend to agree he [Ellison] will buy HP or try to.

    HP is currently as inefficient as Digital was and our real added value is ...where? Printers (high end), PCs (forget it), services (joke), servers (probably), integration (ROTFLOL). We still have 11 layers of management and when there are efforts to reduce this we go from one extreme to the other so we have 300 people reporting to a guy or 45 so it simply doesn't work even though the ratios look OK.

    So, yes, HP is ripe for a killing by someone. As for employees leaving, who cares?

    The next big shock will be the Oracle/HP partnership (such as it was - none) being officially declared dead. As I previously said, we pissed off Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle so who is left? We actually do a pretty good job with customers too...

  • 09.08.2010... Ouch2!:
    "Nice to see the gross incompetence of the HP board - they didn't even have a non-compete clause and Larry was certainly right that letting Hurd go was not good for the shareholders. I think this may turn out to be the final nail in HP's coffin - we are still a bloated and chaotic bureaucracy in comparison with our competitors and have now managed to piss off Cisco, Oracle and Microsoft. I guess the board thinks we can go it alone?

    Or are they betting on trimming down our product lines more and more and trimming the staff more and more so that the number ratios look ok?

    We actually needed Hurd because the next guy is going to uncover some horror stories, particularly when it comes to services.


  • 09.04.2010... Ouch!:
    "If the VOW says senior management sucks but they are all partying on a tropical island does anyone actually hear it?"

  • [from D.]... Yep. So far I've received this from 8 or 9 different co-workers. Lots of witty comments associated w/it. Only appropriately cynical, of course! Y'all don't suppose Adams has connections inside HP now, do you? So much of his stuff is timely. Nah.

  • [from K.]... A group of HP types were preparing for a meeting with a customer, which preparation we completed early. Someone mentioned the VoW, and I showed this Dilbert strip.
    Every single person (including me) said that they had rated their personal management high to very high, but had 100% "Strongly disagree" (the worst possible rating) on anything to do with senior management. No exceptions on any question for 5 people.
    Let's see what the new CEO can do to help this, because there is not much they can do to hurt it...

  • [from S.]... What will the new CEO do? Zip. I actually mailed Lesjak last week and made a few points including this one but it was ignored. The result will be: "communications is a problem not the strategy or the management." Doomed I tell yer...

  • [from D.]... 5 out of 5, huh? You can make it 6 out of 6!

  • [from K.]... D., I believe it will approach 100% of the 1st and 2nd level employees. No one I know has anything good to say about the actions of senior management.
    But even given that, I am still enjoying working here, and plan to stay for as long as they will have me.
    S., I am sad that you are as bitter and angry as you seem to be. Even given the above, I respectfully disagree.

  • Is VoW the new spelling (and philosophy) for MBWA?.. [notice: no smiley...]

    You know, if hp would just treat employees the way that Bill and Dave advocated, you could save a lot of time and money on surveys. Just sayin'...

    2010-08: Some suggestions from some HP and ex-HP friends of mine and publications, too...

  • From HBR..

    Innovation Killers...

    Financial controls destroy your business' ability to engage in innovation.

    This is the claim of Clayton Christensen, Stephen Kaufman, and Willy Shih in their Jan 2008 HBR article entitled, Innovation Killers. For years these three have been researching why so many smart and hardworking managers in excellent performing companies fail to innovate successfully. This research revealed that the financial controls used to manage your organization to optimum efficiency often times inadvertently act as a blockade for ground-breaking new ideas. Let's observe...

    The authors identify the misguided application of three commonly used financial-analysis tools as innovation killers:

  • The use of discounted cash-flow (DCF) and net present value (NPV) to evaluate investment opportunities.
  • The use of fixed and sunk costs to apply the "marginal cost" rule of decision making.
  • The emphasis on earnings per share (EPS) as the primary driver of shareholder value creation.
  • The authors suggest that the way these three tools are often applied "creates a systematic bias against innovation."

  • Things like investing in R&D at a 5-6% clip, Employee Stock purchase at a discount, profit sharing that shares the actual profit among all individual contributors, staffing levels to let people to the good job they are capable of doing rather than working under the gun to meet the next deadline....
  • I would suggest that any CEO wannabe look for a book written by a guy who really knew the best way to run HP, and who had the successful results to back up that approach. Kinda like a _How to Run HP for Dummies_ book.
    I wonder if I could find such a book...
    ummm... yes! I found one called _The HP Way_ by this guy named David Packard. Hey, and guess what... you can buy that book on Amazon...
  • See also... The Motley Fool...

  • 1) When layoffs are contemplated, I think I would give folks a bit longer to get jobs and I'd also set up a process to force hiring managers to look at laid off folks before looking outside.
    2) I'd not require Executive VP signatures to transfer folks from one part of the company to another like in the Bay Area. Makes it appear you are trying to get rid of those employees.
    3) I'd go back to company wide profit sharing and also back to twice a year.
    4) I think Hurd did away with some form of contribution to the stock purchase plan. I would go back to throwing in 25% of the price.
    5) I'd look at the possibility of being a little more free with raises, and I'd re-look at broadening the set of folks who can get stock options based on their performance.
  • A new CEO can solve some of these problems. Restoring R&D to 4-5% of revenue is an easy thing to do.
  • The morale issue is the tough one, and it's been on the decline for over a decade.
  • What they all seem to forget/ignore is that if you take care of running the business, offer good, honest value to the customer, charge a fair price and take reasonable care of the employees typically the stock price will take care of itself. It all stops working when you try to wring the last penny out of the company this quarter – and every quarter – because you can't suppress that last little bit of greed that says "gimme more and give it to me now".

    [comment/reply]... "That first paragraph sounds a LOT like what Bill and Dave used to say..."

    There is such a thing as "good enough" (or maybe "just enough"). There has to be simply because there is such a thing as "too much cost-cutting, expense control, operational efficiency, etc." The old laws of diminishing returns. You reach a point with everything where just a little more (or less) makes it all worse, not better. Good managers are able to identify when/where that "good enough" point is.

  • [reply...]

  • But that requires long term thinking, which is sadly lacking on Wall Street, who are beginning to wonder if quarterly results are too long term for their use. We need to convince the stockholders of the wisdom of your statements. How can we do that?

  • I have a radical notion: the next CEO should take HP private so it can once again operate as a creative and high quality organization. I fear the Wall Street crooks will not change their quarter by quarter demands and measures but going private will free the shareholders from that irrational yoke.

    You know: the SAS Institute went public and after a few short years went private again stating they could not run the company in a way which was in the best interest for all stakeholders.

    They are doing quite well, employees LOVE working there and sales and profits have never been better
    Perhaps it is time to shed the Wall Street chains and once again run HP the way the founders did and enjoy the success
  • Hell, yes... and HP was "virtually private" even after the public offering, since Bill and Dave and their foundations owned a huge chunk of the shares!
    I doubt it would happen... could they possibly afford it? What's the float today?!
    But if the leaders BEHAVED like Bill and Dave, it might be just as good, if any of 'em had the genital fortitude to say, "screw Wall Street, we're running the Company FOR the Company..." and got down to brass tacks.

  • Several times I worked in divisions that were in startup or turnaround mode -- or in departments with little glamour -- where there was little money for raises.

    But the company-wide profit sharing, the way we were treated, and the satisfying and (yes) fun work -- meant that that didn't matter that much.

  • I completely agree that the atmosphere has changed, and I would even go so far as to say that Hurd took the cost-cutting too far (ok, climb off the ceiling at what you consider my ridiculous understatement). But HP was fat, with too many redundant processes and obsolete ways of working and antiquated systems. I think Hurd put us into shape where we can grow back some of the bone and muscle he cut, because he did cut quite a lot of the fat as well.

    As people have said, and as my conversations with other HP people have indicated as well, we need somebody like a Mark Andreesen or a Steve Jobs: a visionary who can take the now lean HP and bring out the next generation of InkJet or LaserJet or ProLiant or EVA or VT100 or Superdome. Something which distinguishes HP from the IBM/Dell/Oracle/EMC/Cisco's of the world, and makes HP the default choice for that class of product, and which will drag along all of the other products and services.

  • [reply...]
  • Cut the fat? Not from the perspective here. We still have dozens (hundreds..) of folk in 'marketing' but none in product marketing so we have nothing to actually sell in services. We have around 800 people in Europe (my estimate) who do nothing but forecast and judge the field forecasts. We have dozens of resource managers and dozens in HR, none of whom provide the slightest added-value to working with clients. We have five timekeeping systems and 30 expense systems - the list goes one and on. We have no money for client presales meetings but can muster up the money for an internal meeting for 50 people. I went to one on Cloud last year and there were five people from the US, one of whom NEVER SAID A SINGLE WORD in three days! Fat? We ain't even started....

  • Cut the fat? Not from the perspective here. [Europe]

    We still have dozens (hundreds..) of folk in 'marketing' but none in product marketing so we have nothing to actually sell in services.

    We have around 800 people in Europe (m estimate) who do nothing but forecast and judge the field forecasts.

    We have dozens of resource managers and dozens in HR, none of whom provide the slightest added-value to working with clients.

    We have five timekeeping systems and 30 expense systems - the list goes one and on.

    We have no money for client presales meetings but can muster up the money for an internal meeting for 50 people. I went to one on Cloud last year and there were five people from the US, one of whom NEVER SAID A SINGLE WORD in three days!

    Fat? We ain't even started....

  • [reply1...]

    Sounds like you need a cleaver - you have pretty strict employment laws over there, right? Is that what is holding back a revamp?

    [reply from Europe to that comment...

    The laws are reasonably strict but bad (or good) in Holland, Germany and France - which explains why we have more and more German 'managers' (I use the term loosely..) managing things all over the place but located in Germany. Why?

    Because they can't be sacked, we have to find them jobs and these tend to be in EMEA or division jobs where our German friends can bring all their imagination and flair to bear (not..). France is a semi basket case anyway and runs itself as a separate company.

    The employment laws are not the issue, it's the 'clique' mentality in management.

  • [reply2...]

    That amazes me.

    Here in the US, the situation is completely different.

    Marketing is practically non-existent, product marketing is being emptied as fast as possible (we now have 2 product managers for servers, one for Integrity and the DL980, and one for all of the other ProLiants, where we used to have a product manager for each of the low-end, mid-range and high-end Integrity servers), sales managers do all of the harassment on the forecasts, HR is (I think, judging from the accents) in Costa Rica, we have a single time-keeping system and a single expense system, etc.

  • My Comment: Does that make it sound a little bit like Hurd didn't look closely at the European Theater?

  • Raise morale?

    1) Sack Mott and all his staff (on the org chart our shadow IT and associated staff still number in the hundreds). Outsource our IT to someone who knows what they are doing
    2) Get rid of ES
    3) Merge EB/Software and all the others except the hardware products divisions.
    4) Give EB a profit margin on selling hardware just like external distributors get.
    5) Reduce the number of management levels from 11 to about 4
    6) Increase the span of control to 30 and reduce the BS managers have to do (like check if our PCs have encryption ferchissakes - can't IT do that remotely? Oops, sorry, forgot, they are incompetent)
    7) etc

    HP is not going down the tubes, it has done already. We are no longer a company but a loose federation of competing companies. No-one is responsible for anything and managers never get sacked. Qualifications mean nothing and nor does experience. We would rather sack an experienced person who is without a chair than move some useless dick off his chair and replace him - musical chairs is about all we are good at.

  • [reply...]

    So tell us how you really feel... :^)

    I disagree on 1 and 2, but kind of agree on the others.

    1) Mott did exactly what he was tasked to do: take out costs, bring in efficiency and (his words, which I like) "ruthless standardization", and make everybody march to the same drummer. If he went too far in the direction, it was only because those were his marching orders. If he was told to increase customer satisfaction, I expect he would do that with the same zeal he has shown for doing what he was told to do by Hurd.

    2) E(D)S is a kind of mixed bag. I have some E(D)S people who I refuse to work with primarily because they take too long to do too little, while I have other E(D)S people who are a joy to work with and with whom I am selling a ton of gear. I don't think you can blame the entire organization, when it comes down (as it always does) to individuals who are either tree-hugging or have actually noticed the "HP" on their paychecks.

    3) and 4) Ok. But also merge the server hardware divisions to match SWD, IPG and PSG: everybody sells everything in that division. There aren't different sales forces for the P4000 (iSCSI NAS, formerly LeftHand) and XP storage, there aren't different sales forces for desk side printers and the big workhorse printers, and there aren't different sales forces for notebooks and desktops. These divisions recognize that customers want someone who can talk about it all. Only BCS (Integrity, PA-RISC and Alpha) and ISS (ProLiant) make these arbitrary and meaningless separations. We have to get rid of this foolishness.

    5) I think 4 is a little aggressive, but 5 could work...

    6) My manager is great about that. He has formally told us that none of us have to take the certification test that he is being told we are to take, and he will all mark us compliant on it. He doesn't check the encryption status of our notebooks since he had to re-image his after the encryption software locked him out of his notebook, etc. And he is joined in this by every L1 manager that I am aware of in the field (I can't speak for Engineering or the back office managers), who consider all of this to be foolishness.

  • [Comments on the VOW...]

    I already did the VOW.

    The very nature of the questions indicates the chasm between management and reality in the field and of course there are the obligatory PC questions about diversity in your group and did we understand the strategy etc.

    This will inspire, as usual, another round of explaining this weeks five year strategy but won't address the internal organizational chaos which is HP these days where everybody is fighting everyone else for everything.

    One of the gems in EMEA is company cars. These have long been part of the culture. So, recently they announced new plan. Everyone will have to justify the car as a tool with a certain number of km's driven and of course to be PC, if you use your own car it has to be 'green' ferchissakes.

    Here's the rub though. All consultants and sales will have to justify them so I have colleagues in sales in Geneva who will lose their cars because their clients are in Geneva (the fact that all sales in every company have cars will likely inspire a few to leave) but anyone above a certain level (ie all the excel managers) don't have to justify a car and get it as a perk and a BMW no less. This last part was kept very quiet of course.

    Oh what a company....'twill implode

  • First rev: 08.18.2010
    Latest revs: 08.23.2010, 09.02.2010