Rediscovering the authentic strengths of HP


Over the past six months I’ve had the privilege of spending time with the management and employees at HP in Denmark. After several tough years during the financial crisis and a shifting environment for the IT industry, the Country Management Team wanted to rediscover and focus on the strengths of the Danish HP organization in order to increase engagement, motivation and pride within the organization. Stagis was invited to work with the management team to rediscover the authentic strengths of HP and to help the organization remember and reclaim what they are good at – what HP in Denmark is passionate about.

During the spring I met most of the managers in the Danish organization and during May and June I’ve personally been meeting and interviewing a lot of managers and employees at Hewlett-Packard in Allerød. When I started out I mostly thought of HP as the hardware company that most people think about – a company that produce servers, laptops and printers. But then, as I met with people and joined workshops and meetings, I remembered some of the things I had heard and read about HP over the years. When Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded their small company in a garage in Palo Alto in California in 1938, they were not only founding a small tech shop, they founded what is now known as Silicon Valley, the cradle of an entire industry. And they led the HP company from being good to great through a number of leadership principles that have been praised in well recognized management litterature. Like “Management by Walking Around”, “Open Door Policy” and “The HP Way”. Here’s one of the ads that ran during HPs “reinvent” campaign reconnecting to the historic garage and the principles of Bill and Dave:

Rules of the garage

I think the ad captures some of the greatness of HP. Since the time in the garage HP has come to be the largest IT company in the world with more than 320.000 employees around the globe. But during the past few years things have been tough in the tech industry due to the financial crisis. The former CEO Mark Hurd introduced new forms of reporting and cut costs in order to help HP stay afloat. Just a few months ago the former CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman, took over the role of CEO. The shifting external environment had an impact on the tech industry and on HP. Customers are reluctant to invest in IT, the strategy of HPs PC division is subject to media commentary and naturally, life in the tech business is not what it used to be, five or ten years ago. As you can imagine, the financial crisis naturally leads into identity questions like “who are we?” and “who do we want to become?”.

HP hovedindgang
HP Powerhouse

When I first entered HP one of the things that struck me was the lack of visual identity. The building is new, cool and looks great, but if someone had removed the HP Invent graphics from the building I wouldn’t be able of seeing, which company was working here. The same goes for the reception area and the meeting rooms. Where is the physical, visual or tactile expression of identity and the passion for the products, the employees and the customers? Every organization needs to express and show who they are in order to build a strong authentic identity.

Here’s the good news. Last week I was visiting HP in Allerød again. Newly appointed Managing Director in Denmark, Jakob Schou Meding, was on his tenth workday at HP, talking about community, knowing each other, working together and how to build trust in front of about 200 employees. People were cheering and seemed to have high hopes for the future. I joined to give a brief presentation of the authentic strengths of HP Denmark that I discovered over the past months. When I walked out of there I was proud to be part of the process and I felt quite sure that I was witnessing a local organization becoming a new, more focused version of itself. In the very near future the organization will be working with a series of initiatives to increase the sense of community, appreciation, engagement and leadership – and to help the potentials of the Danish organization grow.