Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bill & Dave - How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company

Published: 2008
Penguin Group

Happened to see this book in the bargains section in the Landmark book shop and picked it up for just Rs. 149 ($3)
I being an ex-HP employee was interested to know more about the legendary founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

Starting right from the childhood days of Bill and Dave, it covers their lives as students and how they met and started the Hewlett-Packard (HP) company in a garage in 1939. The book then focuses on how the company developed subsequently under the guidance of these two able leaders till their retirement and passing away.

The story behind the landmark HP products like Oscillator, Calculator has also been narrated. The book also describes the circumstances surrounding the major decisions made by the founders(for e.g. HP Way; the decision to go for IPO; the decision to get into the business of computers).
The reader will come to know that many of the best practices in management common today especially in IT companies - Management By Walking Around (MBWA), Employee Stock Options , Flexible Timings, Allocation of 10 - 20% time to work on innovative projects (adopted by Google) - originated from HP.
The last few pages are deals with how their successors John Young, Lew Platt, Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd managed the company.

While telling the story of HP and its founders, the author also gives brief life-sketches of Fred Terman (the mentor of Bill and Dave, who is also considered the father of Silicon Valley) and may other early Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

A couple of interesting facts which I did not know about before I read this book : Bill Hewlett suffered from dyslexia as a boy; Steve Wozniak, the founder of Apple Computers once worked for HP.

The author intended this book to serve as a reference text that entrepreneurs, corporate executives revisit regularly. So throughout the text of the book, the key lessons and decisions of Hewlett's and Packard's career are indicated clearly with an asterisk (*) placed after the crucial sentence. Then all these asterisked portions are compiled in a appendix with a cross reference to the page numbers . One can read the key lessons in the appendix and can easily go to the relevant pages to study the larger context.

A very well written and informative book for anyone who is in IT and Instrumentation industry.
A compulsory read for the HP and Agilent (a HP spin-off) employees (also the ex-employees), so that they can feel proud of their heritage and make a sincere attempt sustain the core HP culture which is timeless.

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