Test and measurement giants

-January 11, 2008

"Bill & Dave" takes you through not only the history of the Hewlett-Packard Company, it gives you insight into how the company’s founders thought and acted. Malone particularly points to how Hewlett and Packard dealt with people. He cites many “war” stories, starting at Stanford, through World War II, when Hewlett left the fledgling company for Packard to run, and onward through Packard’s death in 1996  and Hewlett’s death in 2001.

Along the way, Malone emphasizes “The HP Way,” by covering examples of how Hewlett and Packard operated. While emphasizing profits first, the founders held employees in high regard. For example, when they decided to switch from using independent sales reps to an in-house sales staff, Hewlett and Packard made many of the reps into HP employees rather than just letting them go. Malone also credits Hewlett for devising “flex time” to let employees balance work and life—a concept that was far ahead of its time. These are among several examples of how Hewlett and Packard treated their employees, and Malone enjoys contrasting “The HP Way” to the tactics used in other Silicon Valley companies in later years.

Share and read Bill and Dave stories on Martin Rowe's blog.

This book is a must read for anyone associated with Hewlett-Packard or Agilent Technologies—employees, alumni, customers, and competitors. You will gain insight into how the two men and, to some extent, their lieutenants, ran the company. For example, they invested in R&D when the company was experiencing lean times following World War II. Packard, the businessman of the pair, knew that business would turn around and they were ready when it did.

Malone elevates Hewlett and Packard to legendary, almost sainthood, status. While no doubt the two men did many things right, they must have made mistakes. Malone barely mentions anything going wrong while Bill and Dave ran their company. He does, though, make Carly Fiorina, the infamous CEO who merged HP with Compaq, out to be a great villain who set out to destroy “The HP Way.”

Malone also falls short in his treatment of Agilent Technologies, the company that spun off from HP in 2000, taking the original test-and-measurement business with it. I would have liked to see some analysis on which company, HP or Agilent, more embodies the company that Hewlett and Packard built. There are plenty of HP and Agilent employees still around who worked for Bill and Dave that Malone could have interviewed.

Tell us your Bill and Dave stories on Martin Rowe’s blog. Click here to go to Martin's blog.

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