I wanted to use this section of my memoir to talk about some of the unique HP personalities I worked for and worked with. I wanted to cover them both from a business style as well as a human or personal style, because I thought these insights might be useful to readers who are studying the history of HP. I did have a job that offered me a unique perspective to the way these men thought and operated on a daily basis. It was quite an experience to see these famous individuals, who had one image from outside the company, to the men that I could see from close up. I admired them all and worked hard for them.
From my viewpoint, my relationship with Dave Packard was spectacular, how lucky can one man get? Dave was an extraordinary human being that showed in his many years of successful leadership. Lew Platt, HP's CEO from 1995 to 2000, once made a statement, something to the effect that, "We are blessed just being in the proximity of this man." I was always fascinated by the fact that he seemed to have innate managerial qualities. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a lawyer, so there were no particular examples of leadership or business leadership from his family. Yet, it so happened that he picked up the positive traits of both parents, learning the excellence of a teacher and thoroughness of a lawyer.
Considering that he was just 30 years old in 1942, as the war production started, and his little company expanded, we have to assume that he just grew into this crucial management role. He had no prior experience of leadership, he went to Stanford and then spent a year as a test engineer at General Electric, in Schenectady. But then almost immediately, he started the HP partnership with Bill. He did play varsity football at Stanford, but I don't think he was captain. I guess you could say that he was a born business leader. And then you could leave out the word business and also call him a born leader. He had all the traits that you would associate with leadership.
This will surprise you, since I also feel he was an outstanding engineer. Bill Hewlett usually got the credit for being the HP engineer of an equal status to our resident genius, Barney Oliver. Packard did invent the model 400A, a voltmeter. But then as the war started, Bill Hewlett entered the U.S. Army, and Packard had to take over the small business as it started to produce equipment for the war effort. Packard never got any credit for his engineering knowledge, nor did he seek credit. He was never going into the lab to invent something as Hewlett felt so comfortable in doing. But he still had the internal engineering knowledge that allowed him to keenly evaluate project proposals and status reports and production problems all through the years. Dave's small company got up to a couple hundred employees by the end of WWII.
Packard was smart but he also had a lot of wisdom. These are different. Many people are smart, but Dave was wise. For example, he had the ability to go into a group project meeting of some sort, which was going to pay off sometime in the future. Everybody's excited about it, but then Packard would say, if you look out 3 1/2 years from now, there's some event that's coming which will have a bearing on this project nobody here has mentioned. It might change the entire feasibility of your proposal. He had that natural foresight and vision which many other people didn't seem to exhibit in their enthusiasm.
Dave Packard had the ability to bring out the best in the people he knew and worked with. That to me was one of his best traits. He certainly hired well, although most of the early key managers were with him from the beginning. Barney and Eldred and Porter had all been with Bill and Dave at Stanford. In turn he also hired people with the qualities that can bring out the best in their staff. He wanted his traits to be transferable. It seems pretty clear to me that the basic work culture at HP, which came to be so well known and practiced, as The HP Way, came right from the top. And although both Bill and Dave promulgated a style that formed The HP Way, I suspect that it was Bill who introduced more humanity into HP culture.
An entire issue of Measure was
devoted to explaining The HP Way, July, 1977
I think the term "The HP Way" just slowly morphed into existence. It's hard to pick a year or event or speech where someone pronounced it as an HP management virtue. There was a full copy of one of my Measure magazines, which was July, 1977, and the entire content was devoted to describing the HP Way in principle and in practice. There was page after page of employee interviews and manager comments that described this wonderful encapsulation of Bill and Dave's personnel invention. It seems pretty clear that Bill and Dave, right from the start, saw that trust in their employees and managers was the foundation of The HP Way.
They exemplified their spirit of trust in the employees along the way when they proclaimed their principle of Management by Objective. This right away showed that once they gave an employee an objective they expected that employee to use every bit of creativity and initiative to get the objective accomplished. You push the responsibility down as far as you can through middle managers right down to the production person assembling an instrument. If that employee figures out a way to do his or her job more efficiently, that means that you not only accomplish that improvement, but you enable every other employee to think about their own job improvements. And they also knew that such trust created and enhanced job satisfaction throughout.
If you listed all the personality traits of Dave you could hardly find one that didn't fit the leadership of a major corporation. His relationship with Bill was purely complementary. And yet once Packard left for the Defense Department in 1970, Bill was able to step up and run the company through a fairly serious economic recession. Bill deferred to Packard when he needed, but effortlessly rose to success when leadership was imposed on him.
In regard to Dave's decision-making style, one time I was in his office discussing a project. Something came up and Margaret, who was his secretary at HP, came in and threw a problem at Packard. I was about to leave but Dave told me to stick around while he handled the matter. It just took him a minute or so to take care of it decisively. At other times, I might watch him going through his inbox. Some items would get a short note, others went right in the waste basket. For me, when I was doing that kind of task, I would almost never throw out things, but would put it another pile and say to myself I'll look at that problem later. I guess that was one of the reasons Dave was so effective. So I ended up having an inbox and outbox and a to-do box. The choice of throwing away a piece of paper is a good decision, which is probably just as effective as sending back an answer with "no" on it.
There were six stories in my long years of knowing Packard that I feel show his underlying humanity.
1. There was one incident when I saw him cry. That was clearly an unexpected view into his personality, and certainly threw me. During one of the IEEE shows in New York, the HP Board of Directors scheduled one of their regular meetings. There was a gentleman on the board from the East Coast, a blueblood sort of man, and one of the Sanborn people that HP had acquired. I liked him, he was a good guy, I can't recall his name, but he was very bright and perceptive, and a positive asset for the HP Board.
Packard invited me to a luncheon of the board members. It was at a hotel, probably the Essex House, close to the convention. This gentleman had been in the Sanborn operation, and it was at just at the time that Bruce Wholey had been ordered to move back to Waltham to take over the management. Several years after our acquisition, Sanborn's old product line was finally running out of steam. It was partly due to their dependence on selling electrocardiographs to individual doctors. It was a terribly inefficient process for salesmen to sell products one at a time, and give service to doctor's offices of the supplies like perma-paper and such. Their basic product strategy needed immediate attention.
So this man at the luncheon gave a little report on Sanborn. He reported that he had observed the terrific impact Bruce was having on the operation. And specifically, he told of finding Bruce at work on the afternoon of the day before Christmas. It was the world policy of HP to go home at noon the day before Christmas. And yet, there was Bruce working late into the evening. This was truly impressive to this man who had grown up with the old Sanborn culture, which was a bit Eastern elitist and sort of class-stratified.
He reported that Bruce was so motivated and worked so hard to make a go of that organization. He went on and on about how this man, without any recognition or acclaim just did his job because it was the right thing to do, no one watching. At that point, I just happened to look over at Dave, and he was tearing up, not really crying but surely moved. It was pretty unexpected to me, especially in a board meeting context. He was not afraid to cry I could see tears. That is something that people would not understand.
2. And yet there was that side to Packard that nobody expected. John Minck mentioned a time during some off-site conference down at Ricky's in Palo Alto. He was standing with Packard by the bar after a management meeting. Packard asked John how things were going and John told him that it happened to be a bad week because he had had to fire one of his people. It was justified because he had given the man a full year to improve his technical performance and that had not happened. But that it distressed him a lot. He said that Dave then noted that he also had to fire several people in his lifetime and it was among the hardest things he ever had to do. I think that's a side of Dave that we never saw.
David had this image of being a really tough-minded businessman, which was reinforced by a well repeated statement by Dave, "If you can't do the job, we will find somebody who can!" It was usually delivered in strong language at a meeting, when something was going wrong. In general Hewlett-Packard was pretty mild about firing people. It was almost always true that instead of making a non-performer leave the company, they would typically offer him a less important job and keep him on the staff. To put it another way, he had a soul. He was a physically a big man and his voice had this sort of timbre, a little like Lorne Greene the actor, a deep commanding voice.
3. I have a personal story. I was a heavy drinker. By 1983, it eventually got to the point where I joined AA, and I've been in AA for 30+ years. I'm proud of that record. Dave became Chairman of the Business Roundtable, which was a prestigious national organization of about 100 high-level industrial executives from the country. It was necessary for me, as the Chairman's public relations chief, to go along to all of the meetings. My job was to take care of the business media who came to learn, because this group did studies that had major economic ramifications in what they studied and promulgated. This was an Industry Council although it had government blessings and implications. The Roundtable did have a small staff but no regular PR. Dave ordered me to go and suggested as I bring along my wife on some occasions. There were four meetings a year in Washington and two meetings at the Homestead Resort at Hot Springs, Virginia. Many wives came to the ultra-fancy resort, which was constructed like a plantation, a gorgeous place.
It was great fun for me to meet these captains of industry. They worshiped Packard. They would say to me, "What do you do Dave?" And I would say, "I work for Dave Packard." We might be joined by another person, and I would get introduced, "Charlie you know this Dave works for Dave Packard." I'll tell you, that could boost a person's ego a lot. Like a big admiration society. When it came time to look for a new Chairman they all just said, "Oh hell, we'll just keep Dave."
Previously at Palo Alto, as I finished talking with Dave one day, I was leaving his office and he stopped me at the door. He said, "Dave I want you to know something, I think you have been drinking a lot." Obviously it was noticeable to him, and he told me to watch it. And that's all that happened that day. I know I said okay, but unfortunately I did not watch it. At a future Roundtable meeting, late in the day, the media reporters would assemble, since I would arrange regular press meetings. They had their own discussions separate from the official Roundtable group. I got to know these media people well, and they were really great big time reporters, a lot of fun. And quite a bit of drinking.
So after dinner the Roundtable broke up, I had to talk to Packard about something. Some of their dinners, especially at the resort were tuxedo affairs with wives. Dave started talking, when all of a sudden he said, "Dave, you're drunk! And we've talked about this. And this is ridiculous!" I was just stunned, and taken aback. That would be about as bad as it got and he might've fired me on the spot. "God dammit, I want you to go upstairs and go to bed. I don't want to see you here in the hotel anymore on this trip." It was the last night of the meeting, but that was pretty devastating. I went upstairs and said to myself I wonder if I still have a job when I get back to Palo Alto. He was really pissed off and when you're talking to Dave face to face, you're looking at his belt buckle.
The next morning I got up, I had my plane ticket, it was Sunday, and I flew home alone. When I got home I went into my office to consider what to do. I went into Dave's office, no locked doors, and I wrote a note and I left it at his desk. It was interesting that I didn't say I was going to quit drinking, but I said I will never embarrass you or Hewlett-Packard again. I never heard a thing about that. But I understood because he simply expected me to solve my own problem.
Had it not been for Packard I doubt that I would have joined AA. I didn't join to begin with. When Packard got so angry with me, that should've been enough to get me off booze and into AA but it wasn't. My wife's pleas were not enough. In the note I left in Packard's office on his desk I never said that I was going to give up drinking and to join AA. What I said was I will never do anything in the future to embarrass HP. But I was quibbling and basically I still was not ready to make a decision to go to AA.
What really moved me to stop drinking and start with AA was that some months later, I woke up one morning at 3 o'clock and I think I had what's known as the DTs. I had such a high incidence of anxiety it was just awful. I could barely get dressed. That morning, as soon as they opened for business, I phoned the HP employee assistance program. At that time HP had fortuitously set up a psychiatric Hotline to help employees with serious emergency issues in their lives. This was an outside operation which contracted with HP to have a 24-hour hotline. So I found them, and on that very day whoever was talking to me said, "OK, Dave, don't waste another day." I went in to their office. He asked if I was ready to quit drinking, and I finally said yes I am, and that was that. Although I was certainly able to do my job at HP, it was insidious. All along I had been thinking that I must quit to please my wife and family. After having that adventure with Packard, I know for sure that one more drunk episode at work, and that would have been my end at HP.
So that was the primary reason I joined AA. Dave must've heard about my joining although it took a few years. There was a company function, and I went up and ordered a ginger ale. He came over and saw that and he congratulated me. He said he understood I was at AA now and he appreciated that.
Interestingly enough, the thing I had wanted to talk to him about at the Roundtable confrontation, was to arrange a photo shoot for a major Business Week story about HP. It was intended to be the cover story on the company for a future issue. It turned out to be the best media coverage of the Hewlett-Packard business and organization up until that time. The cover picture showed Bill and Dave. It was their usual picture of Bill Hewlett standing and Dave sitting. HP reproduced that story as a brochure and circulated it around the company. Those were the days that HP success became a story in itself. Tom Peters of Stanford had just written his book, "In Search of Excellence," with the HP management culture featured prominently. Graduate business schools were writing case studies about HP success.
4. I didn't know Paul Ely all that well, but a few years ago, maybe 2008, he unexpectedly invited me to lunch over at the Sharon Heights Club. We sat down for lunch at noon, and he got going with his life after HP. We were still there at 3:30. He told me about his parting conference with Packard. Packard said, "Paul I think you're a great manager and a great guy. I'm sorry that it has come to this, but we understand why you feel you need to leave HP. I wish we could convince you to stay." Paul told me that he cried all the way home. In his new book, Ready, Fire, Aim, Paul admits that he probably should never have left HP. So, whether he left on his own, or was asked to leave by Packard isn't clear.
5. Packard was invited to make a luncheon speech at Ricky's. It was for Rotary International and he told me a few days in advance that I would accompany him, so I agreed. I was to come on over to his office a little before lunch and drive together. When I arrived at his office, the door was closed which was pretty unusual. Margaret Paull said he was working on his speech. So I just waited outside for a few minutes and he opened the door about noon and had his yellow paper notes in his hand.
He said, "Come on, we're late," so we went out the back door to his car. As we walked he handed me his keys and said, "You drive. I'll sit in the back seat and continue to work on these notes." So I jumped in the driver seat and he jumped in. He drove a large Chrysler, which fitted his large tall frame. In addition, Bill Hewlett was on the Board of Directors of Chrysler, which may have influenced his purchase.
So I got in the driver seat and was presented with a completely new dashboard, with all of these knobs which I had not been familiar with. This was a high-end Chrysler so it was well-equipped. So I started out by pulling a lever, thinking it was the brake release. Unfortunately, when I pulled it, the hood flew up. Talk about embarrassment. So of course I had to get out of the car and go around and slam the hood, and it didn't catch right away. As I got back in the car, this voice said, "This car has an automatic brake release." Compounding the problem was that we were already late and here I had added an additional five minutes to our trip.
So we got to Ricky's and went in, luckily the lateness was not a problem. But afterwards, when the meeting broke up, we were walking back to the parking lot. I realized that I still had the damned keys in my pocket. So I held the keys out, as if to ask him whether he wanted me to drive back. He just grabbed them with a sweeping motion of his arm. On any given day, Dave was known to be very understanding, but other times these kinds of simple screw-ups could just rub him the wrong way. In looking back, it's not much of an incident, but if you knew Packard you could see that this kind of unexpected incident could just get in the way of a perfect day. One can understand that, when you knew that he was working right down the last minute on his speech, and certainly didn't need an extra distraction as he reviewed what he was going to say.
6. I heard this story from Dennis Taylor, manager of HP's plant in Scotland. Dennis picked up Packard at the airport, and driving to the plant, when the car got a flat tire. Dennis was wondering what to do now, and he was standing in the road trying to flag down a passing motorist (no cell phones in those days). Then he looked around, and there is Packard changing the tire. Dave was SO practical, get a flat tire, change it.
In 1970, when Packard was appointed by President Nixon to be the Under Secretary of Defense, this had the effect of changing both organizations, HP and the Defense Department. Packard's experience at HP certainly helped his performance at the Pentagon. HP was devoted to reliability and dependability of its products. Every new product before introduction went through an extensive environmental test of high temperatures and shock and vibration. In a similar manner, Packard attacked the procurement problem in the Pentagon. There really is a military-industrial complex, with a monster lobby in Congress. Over and over again this resulted in the DOD going into production on military contracts, which were dreadfully unreliable, with massive cost overruns. So Dave installed his "Fly before Buy" concept, which forced Program Managers to prove that their brand new fighter or tank was able to demonstrate that its reliability and functional performance was ready for mass production. This saved billions over time.
I went back to Washington several times on business and one time I had some extra time to spend before my flight. I called Margaret Paull, who accompanied him to serve as his secretary at the Pentagon, which no doubt leveraged their long term working relationship. She said I hit an opportune moment, Dave was right there, and put him on the phone. So Dave invited me over to the Pentagon for lunch. Now, that was quite an experience, lunch with the #2 man among 25,000 employees. We were walking down the hall, meeting high-level officers, brigadier and major generals. As soon as they saw Dave, they would snap to attention, then chat, "Yes, Sir! No, Sir!" For an old WWII corporal like myself, I felt like I was kind of on a reviewing stand.
There were stories we heard about of how Margaret handled some visitors to Dave's office, if they showed too much arrogance or attitude. Along would come some four-star general with the notion that he was ready to talk to Packard, and Margaret would pick up on this and have him cool his heels in the waiting room for half an hour.
These were tumultuous years to serve in Washington, at the height of the war in Vietnam, and with the country badly polarized over the conflict. I have often wondered, since Packard left the Pentagon in 1971, whether he had some kind of an inside information about the facts that the Watergate scandal was ready to blow up. Whether he knew that the Nixon election campaign people were engaged in dirty tricks and various break-ins like the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who published the Pentagon papers. Packard was gone by the time that entire Watergate scandal hit, with the publication of the Washington Post by Woodward and Bernstein. We will never know, but it seems more than a little coincidental that Packard did not wait around until the end of Nixon's second term.
Dave Packard thanks me at my retirement party in 1989.
We continued working together for 3 more years,
writing his book, The HP Way.
It was true from the beginning that Packard didn't like the two White House deputies that were adept at isolating Nixon. They were Haldeman and Ehrlichman. One time I was in Washington on other business, and Dave and Lucile invited me to their home for dinner. Lu Packard mentioned Dave's disgust that if he called the Oval Office to talk with the President, he would first have to talk with Haldeman, who would ask for the specific details of what Dave wanted to talk about. This was real censorship and control of that White House structure, like arrogant call screeners.
Packard originally took the Under Secretary job because he was asked by Melvin Laird to join him. Nixon's Transition Committee had enlisted Packard to search for a Secretary of Defense. Packard recommended Laird, an ex-Senator, and he turned around and insisted that Packard join him as Undersecretary. It was a good combination because Laird was a terrific outside political presence, and Packard, coming in with serious industry credentials, handled the inside DOD organization and procurement. I always felt that Packard, through his life, always felt that he owed the country some national service. He did not enlist in WWII, probably because when Hewlett went into the Army, Dave was needed to run that small company and produce the war material. So, when the offer came from Laird, he did not have a second thought about it. It meant leaving his major job in an industry for 3 - 4 years. Those years of the early 1970s happened to see a medium scale business recession that made Bill Hewlett's CEO replacement period anything but routine.
I never got involved much with Dave's family, although occasionally I would have to go over to his home to talk about some PR details. It seemed to me that Dave's children were just very successful people although they never had much interest in joining the company. Perhaps that was the wish of Bill and Dave that their children not to come to HP. It might have been some perceived fear of nepotism. All of the kids were successful, with degrees and some advanced degrees. Julie Packard has made such an amazing success of the Monterey Bay aquarium. Julie is like another Dave. I'm sure that David and Lucile would be extremely proud of the way she has managed the aquarium and brought it to such institutional greatness. I knew a lawyer who did work for Standard Oil, Frank Roberts. Frank told me once that Julie should be running HP, especially after it ran into all of its difficulties after 2000.
I have been fascinated by just how the HP work culture developed, which became widely known as The HP Way. It had to come directly from Dave and Bill, and yet I feel that more of that credit belongs to Bill. Dave was the power manager, a very tall symbol of determination and vision. But alongside was Bill, "Now, Dave, take it easy." Bill seemed to be the humane side of their remarkable partnership. Certainly they both agreed on some major principles,
1) Management by Objective, MBO, which endowed everyone below with TRUST. If we tell you where we are going, we trust you to do the right things to get it done. Use all your creativity.
2) Management by Walking Around, MBWA, which demonstrated to all, from middle managers to the production line assemblers, that they had their people's lives at heart. Some were better at MBWA than others, Ed Porter and John Doyle come to mind.
3) Open Door Policy, a specific policy to provide openness which gave warning to middle managers, that if they weren't sensitive to their employees, to listen to concerns that are important to the company, that the employee was permitted to go over their heads to be heard. A variation of the concept of Ombudsman.
Coming right from the top, all management found that fostering these principles just simply worked well in establishing the trusting atmosphere across the growing company. I have never been clear just when the term, The HP Way, came into existence. Measure Magazine devoted an entire issue to the HP Way in July, 1977. Packard's book, The HP Way, didn't come along until 1995. But the way that one employee treated another one was a reality, probably from the start. In hundreds of "Dave & Bill" stories, they often contained an anecdote that emphasized the humanity of Dave or Bill or other top execs. Incidentally, the HP corporate website has compiled a few pages of Packard anecdotes at this URL: Click HERE
Bill and Dave (Me).
One such story is told by Hugo Vivian, who hired in to HP in 1969. His wife was just ready to have twins, and soon went to Stanford for the happy event. Unfortunately, along with healthy twins, she had a very serious medical episode which resulted in a huge medical bill. Worse, in those days the HP medical plan didn't kick in until you had been at the company for 30 days. So Hugo was left with this enormous hospital bill. To begin with, and unexpectedly, HP extended a low interest loan right away, which helped him get over his immediate problem. But then HP and I'm guessing Hewlett, worked to change the medical plan, so that all new employees were covered from the instant of hiring. Moreover, Hugo said that HP later forgave much of the actual loan itself, a hundred thousand dollars. Sounds like Bill.
It also has been written that in the very early years in the company, that Dave and Bill became aware of occasional employee problems with huge medical expenses. These were the days when there were few medical plans or industrial medical coverage to any great extent, except maybe unionized companies. Recognizing that medical distractions would affect job performance, they decided that they should install some sort of medical benefits for the employees. This not only relieved those hit with disaster, but you can imagine how it offered every employee the confidence of a safety net, funded by HP, and by modest employee payments. Medical disasters would not ruin their lives or jobs. So catastrophic medical coverage for a few unfortunate employees was funded by the contributions of the entire company. Such insurance gave real confidence that lives would not be ruined by bad medical luck.
I was told another story from the microwave marketing department of the early 1960s. Mary Hurtt worked there in the instruction manual printing process. She did re-production typing, on a high quality specialized typewriter, involving upsize 11 x 17 pages and high-resolution typefaces. These were photographically resized for normal printing. At some point her husband either died or left her with four young children. She was really struggling with babysitters and getting to work, just to make money and somehow manage the small children. Bill Hewlett found out about her situation and sent orders to her then-manager to arrange for Mary to work at home. HP would be responsible for bringing publication material over to Mary's house about a mile away and picking up her finished typing. This went on for some years and literally saved her family's existence and she was so appreciative for decades after. She would tell her story with tears in her eyes.
Another similar "Bill" story came from the Automatic Measurement Division in Sunnyvale. Mel Kelm was a long-term employee there, and ended up with a new boss one day, who had just been hired from Ampex. It was 1970, during the middle of an economic downturn, and the word came down to the division to cut expenses by 10%. Turns out that the way Ampex controlled expenses was by hiring and firing people. So Mel was called into his new boss' office and laid off with no notice. The problem was that Mel's work performance was excellent, his job reviews were high-grade and yet he was gone. Well, not really gone, because he simply decided to use the open door policy promulgated by Bill, to walk into Bill's office in Palo Alto and tell him what happened to him. Within a day came a memo from Bill that revoked Mel's firing, and laid the policy out in no uncertain terms. I'll insert an excerpt of Bill's letter here to show how unhappy Bill was to hear that an employee could be treated like this.
July 16, 1970
SUBJECT: Evaluations & Terminations
An increasing number of cases are coming to my attention in which employees are being terminated with little or no warning that their performance has been unsatisfactory. In some cases, evaluations have been glowing up to the time that an individual is released.
There just is no excuse for this. It is not humane. It is not HP-like. It is not justified. I would like you to be guided by the four following points: . . . .
I wonder what happened to Mel's boss? But that was the same Bill Hewlett who in 1970 came up with the employee-friendly "Nine Day Fortnight." He concluded that with sales and revenues down because of the national economy, that we could adjust our production capacity to fit the reduced sales by taking 10% off of our worker hours. He announced that everyone would take off every other Friday. It was recognized in industry as an unusual and extremely employee-friendly management move. Everybody happily shared the pain including managers right up to the top. In normal industry the top and middle management would never ever get any reductions in salary but for Hewlett that was just the fair way to do it.
Among us staffers, sitting near the executive row, there was a kind of a continuous question about who scared you the most; Bill or Dave? Most people would obviously say Dave because his very presence was formidable. But in my opinion it was Bill, and I would hang it on this attribute. He asked so god-damn many questions that he always scared me. Packard would just say how's it going today. But when I was going to see Bill about some PR question, I would try to think up every answer that I might need before I went in. I knew he was going to ask me details on whatever project was active. I think it was Bill's innate curiosity that made him do that. And usually the first one he would ask would be one I had never considered and it happened over and over. He was not easy with such questions. He was dead serious.
There was probably a question among some that Bill wasn't up to the task of CEO, when Packard moved to the DOD. And yet Bill had been co-managing with Dave, albeit in the background, up until that time. He set up a three-man executive committee including Eldred and perhaps Young or Lee. It seems to me that Bill is the one who thought the most about personnel policies. He was the who seemed to be looking out for the little guy. Bill deserves the credit for a lot of things that were good about HP.
On that score, his employee sensitivity was better than Packard, no doubt about it. I don't think you'd walk in to Packard and say I've been laid off. Bill Hewlett was in the Army, and it turned out he worked for an Army officer who came from the Western Electric (WECO) whose name was Jim McRae. McRae knew a lot about big-time electronics production. WECO had been in massive production of phone equipment for decades, and I can imagine Bill picking McRae's brain for future use at HP. It was Hewlett's Army job to survey the military needs for new electronic technologies like radars and electronic warfare. And Bill would then go to the MIT Radiation Lab or Fred Terman's Radio Research Lab that built countermeasures. He would work with them to design and build these required breakthroughs for the military.
So I expect that these military experiences certainly helped him with management experience when he returned to HP in the middle 1940s. He was pretty young, in his early 30s when he had this very responsible job to set the future directions of military electronics, and win the war. It gave him a real insight into the applications of Hewlett-Packard products like signal generators and other test products. So Hewlett's wartime experience ended up being fairly crucial, not just from his knowledge of military needs but from the fact that he met Art Fong and personally arranged for him and others like Bruce Wholey to be hired and come to California to work for HP.
One final story about Bill will show his humorous side. In 1964, shortly after I arrived at HP and started my PR work, Hewlett reminded me that the company's first significant sale was to Walt Disney studios in 1939. Hewlett had invented a new audio oscillator and Disney wanted eight of them to assist in making the movie Fantasia.
Bill said to me, "I have an idea I'd like to try. You know, it's the 25th anniversary of HP, and I'm thinking we can make a model of the 200A oscillator in miniature, about half size, silver-plate it and present it to Walt Disney." Here I am, relatively new, so I agreed that's a great idea. So he had this model made in the HP model shop, and it took some doing, with the silver-plating.
The plan was to visit Disney Studios in Los Angeles when Hewlett and I attended the annual Westcon electronics trade show there. Hewlett knew an engineer at Disney, who would arrange the presentation to Walt Disney.
So I met Bill at the airport and he had a box under his arm with the model. The engineer met us at Disney Studios and escorted us to Disney's office. He said Walt would be along shortly. Being in the office was a real eye-opener. There were photographs of the most notable people in the world; Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, the Queen of England, and various others - all signed. So we're sitting there and Disney came in and was introduced to Bill and me. And then, after an awkward silence, Bill started to explain the occasion and opened the box.
At that point, Bill and I realized that Disney hadn't been briefed on the presentation. He had no idea who we were or why we there. So here we are, like two idiots, opening a box and pulling out this model oscillator, which Disney looked at askance. Bill tried to explain it to him, and Disney, wondering what the hell it was, replied, "This is great, my grandchildren will love this," like it was a toy. So the whole thing was a disaster and pretty soon Bill and I are backing out of the office.
We got in the car in silence and Bill said to me, "Well, that didn't go over very well, did it?' It was an embarrassment for Hewlett, who had come up with the idea in the first place. And, over the years, Bill relished telling the story to others -- but with a twist. We'd be at a dinner, maybe eight people at the table, and Hewlett would turn to me and say, "Dave, tell them about that crazy idea you had to present a 25th Anniversary oscillator to Disney." From that point on, he'd laughingly put the blame on me.
When I retired from HP in 1989, Hewlett was out of town at the time but sent me a laudatory note praising me for all of the good work over the years for HP. And then he added that the only downer he could remember was the Disney fiasco. Then he said, "However, it's been so long ago that I think we can now blame the screw-up on Packard."
When I joined L.C. Cole in my PR role, I was given this list of clients including Hewlett-Packard. Bob Orr was a senior Cole account exec, and was the only person I knew that was connected to Hewlett-Packard. He said he wanted me to meet Noel Eldred, so we had lunch. I was impressed with Eldred, and I thought he had a good mind. He was a sophisticated marketing executive. Noel was at Stanford with Dave and Bill, although not in the same class, I think he was a year older. He was not as close to Dave and Bill as Ed Porter was. Porter was also at Stanford with Dave and Bill and Barney Oliver.
I certainly did not put Noel's knowledge of electronics and engineering up anywhere close to that of Bill and Dave. I figured he knew enough to do a good job of marketing. Noel did not join HP right away after graduation. Instead he worked at a company called Heinz & Kaufman. H&K manufactured high power transmitter tubes in South San Francisco. An interesting sidelight, Eitel and McCullough both worked at Heinz, but left due to product disagreements, and started their own legendary high power tube company in San Bruno. In the late 1930s, Fred Terman maintained relations with those local electronics manufacturing companies, and helped Bill and Dave make connections with local businesses, like Charlie Litton, who allowed HP to use some of his manufacturing processes.
Bob Orr and Noel were very good friends. They not only worked together on HP advertising, but because of Noel, Bob spoke highly of all HP people. So here I was with part of my Cole job to do the PR work at HP, I was also supposed to write some technical articles and some business articles for HP. These were intended for the various electronic trade magazines like Electronics and Electronic News. So part of my job was to develop good relations and get to know those magazine editors who could facilitate getting HP articles published. It was my impression that HP did little or none of this technical article placement before I came into the operation, either with L.C. Cole or after I joined HP.
Right about that same time I hired in, Eldred also hired Ross Snyder out of Ampex. Ross had done some years of actual audio engineering on tape recorders. His name is mentioned on a custom recording technology associated with Les Paul and his multiple track steel guitar recordings. Ross's primary job at HP was to be the full-time technical PR manager and he was a gem. Another great hire by Eldred. Ross was the pre-eminent editorial relations person, he was a gourmet food lover and a committed wine aficionado, with a wine cellar of 2000+ bottles. He made an annual trip to France to resupply his cellar. Trade magazine editors loved to be invited to dinner with Ross.
There were a number of instances where the media would call in to HP to get a reaction to some business or technical event. So I would set about to collect the internal views and prepare a summary response for release. I could usually put together enough in preparation for working with Eldred, or other executives, for an approved document. Noel would be the spokesman and I would put the words in his mouth as much as I could. At that time in the early 60s, HP had acquired all the independent sales representative businesses, and Noel was up to his eyeballs integrating all of these brand-new Hewlett-Packard sales divisions into our sales operation. This involved business and financial and HR issues, as well as sales training, order processing and the important task of shedding other business lines that had been in their portfolios prior to their being folded into the HP organization. These were companies like Varian and Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton (strain gauges) and even Tektronix in a case or two.
After purchasing these independent businessman, Noel had to convince them that they now reported into a large company with important national images to protect. So some of the wild performances that they had gotten away with as independent businessmen had to stop. For example, the Neely calendars. These were ink blotters (remember this was the fluid ink pen era) about the size of a number 10 envelope. One blotter per month, distributed on request to customers. The problem was that the picture on the front was a pin-up type image of a scantily clad woman, done by one of the noted women artists of the time, such as George Petty. That practice stopped immediately.
I joined HP in 1962, and the negotiations were still going on, probably about half of the sales organizations were acquired. John Young had gone over to work for Ed van Bronkhorst in 1961, to organize the purchase of all the sales reps businesses. So the actual transition probably took place just about the time that I was coming into the company. Eldred was very busy and actually I spent very little time with him, even though technically I reported to him. I always found that talking to Noel was a real pleasure because he not only dealt easily with people but his knowledge of marketing was superb. He was a good guy and he was bright and I was always trying to get some kind of a reading on why he had hired Peter Sherrill. I always felt that Sherrill's personality didn't particularly fit the HP mold.
Most of my contacts developed through Ron Whitburn, who worked for Sherrill in an applications writing slot. I think the instruction manuals were also produced in that group and Steve Duer, of course, managed the production of HP's big annual catalog. I wasn't doing much to start out. Since I didn't seem to be doing too much, Bob Orr was worried a bit about my job performance. Since I now worked for HP, it was none of his business, his being with L.C. Cole. He wrote a memo to Bill Haberman at Cole telling Bill that Kirby was not producing enough for Hewlett-Packard, even though HP had not said anything. That was strange. I felt pretty confident, in spite of that letter, because I knew of my growing relationship at HP with Packard and all the other top managers. It was probably Orr just worried about his own relationship which was 90% with Eldred. I don't remember that Noel was in any particular social group with the other executives at HP. Eldred and Orr and his wife were fairly close, and they would go to Tahoe together for vacations.
Noel managed some unusual people beyond Sherrill. For example, Carl Mahurin was a personality in his own right, and was in charge of the Service Department. Interestingly, Carl was an agronomist graduate of Stanford, and it's not quite clear how he fit in to this technological company? I believe he had been hired during WWII. In the end, he was a quite an amazing manager in his own style. It turned out he was a real track star at Stanford. Their track team set a new NCAA record for the 2-mile relay and Carl ran one leg in that relay. He was a second-best runner on the whole track team.
He never looked at physically strong because, by the time he was at HP for a number of years, he drank and smoked quite a bit, and put on a lot of weight. I was told that when training seminars were held in the Service Department, Carl would arrange a tennis match. Before the game, Carl would bumble around on the court, make some modest wager. He would then just destroy the visiting field engineer, who didn't know what was coming, and got sandbagged. Although the word got around, Carl was often successful for a long time.
Carl ran his Service Department with an exceptional sensitivity to customers. Part of his function was to organize customer training sessions for servicing newly introduced instruments. So customer technicians and even service managers came to Palo Alto to learn the latest techniques and measurement procedures. HP was inventing entirely new test techniques, and customers had to keep up.
One of Carl's most creative ideas was to have HP host a Service Managers Conference every two years. This was an industry-wide invitation, going mostly to customer service and metrology managers. In those years, the military and large aerospace and industry companies had centralized the repair and calibration of their inventory of measuring instruments. Those managers in a real sense were "gate keepers" of measuring instruments throughout their companies or military organizations. They also typically managed their company facility of primary standards, which government contracts called out to assure accurate measurements. Since their repair technicians got specialized on certain HP instruments, the manager often had the responsibility to review the lists of all intended new instrument purchases. That way his stock of repair parts and technician repair knowledge could be assigned to fewer model numbers. He could and often did substitute an HP model number on the purchasing list, thereby making his loyalty to HP very crucial.
Customers felt honored to be invited, and attendance typically would be up to 150 people. Carl arranged for industry speakers on current topics and measurement trends, with usually several HP lab speakers who would tantalize the attendees with expected new HP rollouts. It usually lasted 3 days and was appreciated by these key customers. The conference ended with a full banquet at the Palo Alto Hills Country Club, with a speech by Dave Packard, all at HP's expense. Many had brought their wives for the week, to enjoy San Francisco, and they were also invited to the banquet. Other high level HP executives were asked to attend so that customers got a real welcoming and appreciations for buying HP equipment. HP Field Service Managers were invited so they could mingle with their customers.
Finally, I want to make a fundamental observation here. We talked about Hewlett-Packard and the people that work there. Most everybody had the impression that HP hired the very best people that they could find, and that they were staffed with these bright, creative people throughout. However, if you look at the reality of the HP staff, you would find some people who were not exactly the top-of-the-line folks. But I think that the HP management was so good that they were able to made good people out of mediocre ones. In a real sense the HP management culture brought out the best in their people and made them perhaps more than they themselves knew they could be.
I didn't work much with Ed Porter, and that was because he was responsible for HP manufacturing, which didn't much concern the press. Ed was a Stanford classmate of Bill and Dave (and a radio ham buddy of Barney). He was famous as a kid for being selected by GE as "the smartest kid in California," by getting the top score in a test they gave throughout the state. They asked him to join HP during the war, but he was a Navy officer and couldn't join until discharged. It was said that Bill Hewlett, who was then in the U.S. Army, posted to the Pentagon during WWII, recommended Ed to the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships, where he served in the infrared engineering dept.
Long before John Doyle coined the term, MBWA (Management by Walking Around) in the 1960s, Ed was an ever-present manager, out in the production areas every day. It was second nature to him to be out talking with employees, a real people person. In this way he was keeping directly informed about production problems, in all its aspects. Certainly Porter was popular with the assembly force, and most everyone knew him personally.
But I always wondered about his firm place in the business because he had a bit of a wild reputation. I knew he was close to Bill because of course they were at Stanford at the same time. Supposedly he had helped Bill academically, perhaps because Bill was dyslexic although we didn't find that out until a long time later. Bill was a local San Francisco boy, went to Lowell High up in San Francisco, his family was native San Franciscan. I think Porter was also local. His father was a minister in Palo Alto.
Porter was exceptional to the extent that he could run the City of Palo Alto in the morning for eight years and then come in and run the manufacturing part of Hewlett-Packard in the afternoons. As Mayor of Palo Alto, Ed presided over enormous changes to the character of what was a sleepy college town at the end of WWII. His vision was to build a healthy industrial and commercial base that solidified city finances for years to come. Two major accomplishments were the highly successful Stanford Shopping Center and working with Fred Terman to create the Stanford Industrial Park.
Porter also was instrumental in the development of the new combined Palo Alto/Stanford Hospital, which was built when Stanford moved their Medical School from San Francisco to the campus. A more controversial development was the creation of the Oregon Expressway and railroad underpass. This was intended to improve cross-town traffic flow from the Industrial Park to Bayshore Freeway. This boulevard called for the removal of 90 homes, and led to a split on the City Council, and in the community. It further led to an election referendum, which showed the close divisions in the voters, passing 9300 to 9000.
His City Council itself was split just about down the middle, with Bob Debs, Enid Pearson and Kirk Comstock, all standing up for no more commercial expansion. There was the Save our Skyline Committee and the Committee for Green Foothills, all organized to kill the proposed Superblock. Superblock was going to raze and destroy a full city block of residences and then construct a business commercial center. That went to a referendum vote of the residents and was killed. A lot of people thought his government attitudes were dictatorial since Porter tended to come down the side of an expanding city. Anne and I moved to Edgewood Drive in Palo Alto in 1976, after most of that confrontation had cooled down.
Porter belonged to the Palo Alto Club, a men's luncheon home on Melville Avenue. I'm a member now. This is a very exclusive businessman's club, perhaps a membership of 200. Porter was very popular there, naturally because he was mayor and the businessmen really worked to be his friend. City Fathers, the Movers and Shakers businessmen were all members. Dave Packard was a member and ate there most every day. I don't believe that Hewlett was a member, even though he lived right in Palo Alto about a mile away. Member Leo Ware got me into the club, and I was definitely not a mover or shaker. Then my wife's health went downhill in the early years of the 2000s and I had to drop out. I was too busy with care-giving in those years that I couldn't be involved with those social connections. After she died, Leo asked me to reconsider and I did go ahead and re-join the Club.
My relations with Barney were the same as with Porter. I never had much reason to work with him on public relations, for the reason that his HP life was mostly technical, without much interest by the media. However, the contacts I did have with Barney over the years were memorable. Barney had a very, very interesting personality, and not just the fact that he was a genius.
Most of his work and accomplishments were technical so this was more typically handled by Ross Snyder who did our technical PR. He did run for the presidency of the IEEE one year, but again, that was pitched to the engineering community and it didn't need electioneering. In the case the IEEE you don't actually run for the office but you were sort of groomed for it by moving up from regional chairman to being on their national board. From there you got appointed to vice president for a year and then it's an automatic accession into the presidency.
One of the campaigns Barney did enter was when he ran for Chairman of the Palo Alto Board of Education. I remember some news item about Barney was in Herb Cain's column in the SF Chronicle. Packard had held that position way back in the 50's, and directed the massive building program to create enough schools in the city to handle the rapidly increasing child population.
It was always an interesting paradox to me that Barney would run for a people-oriented public office. A School Board can always be confrontational as hundreds of parents worry about their children's educational well-being. Barney was not naturally a people-oriented person, and he had little patience with stupidity. And yet when he did gain the job of Chairman for eight years and two terms, it did seem that the continuing contact with the public really did round off some of his rough edges. Don Hammond took over at the school board after Barney left that office. I think there's no question that the public service really humanized his personality. The school public didn't have to bow down before his genius nor should they.
Barney was very agnostic, which occasionally would run him into trouble with more religious people. This would come up in questions about the Palo Alto school curriculum. In one case he ended up writing a devastating letter supporting evolution to the state school education board. I also recall the story about Barney buying Packard's house when Packard moved to that 50-acre home site on Taaffe Street. Some other people he knew were moving into Palo Alto and Barney was showing them around. They were moving in from some educational institution in another state, maybe Harvard. One of the big Palo Alto real estate guys was with the group, showing them around. They were at a house up on a valley slope. The realtor was pointing out the view as a good point about that location. Among one of the views was a large Catholic church with a beautiful layout. The realtor mentioned the fact that that Catholic church would be one thing of interest to them. Barney responded by noting that he wouldn't worry about that view since a few plantings will take care of that view.
Barney had a mind that could provide insights on almost every subject. If you were working on electrical problem, he would refer to a mechanical analog, which made the solution more clear. For a mechanical problem, he would use a little optics to explain it. His mine was just interleaved with different physical insights. I heard that Barney's IQ was about 180. Barney married an amazingly talented Priscilla "Suki" Newton in 1945, she died in 1994. I guess it's not surprising that Suki was evidently quite religious whereas Barney was clearly not. That marriage of Barney and Suki seemed quite unusual, Suki was artistic, creative and Barney was everything else.
During the annual IEEE show in New York, the Olivers would not join the carousing HP contingents, but instead always went to the theater. Every night they went because Suki was so interested in the theater. She was an actress. Barney accommodated her talent and interests and charm. It's just such an interesting observation that a certified genius with such a wide variety of technical interests could also live with a very human person with dramatically different interests and loves. A clear proof that opposites attract.
When the Suki died, Barney wanted to have a gathering to honor her life. So he took over the church on Embarcadero at Louis Road. This immediately seemed like a bit of a contradiction because Barney was agnostic to a fault. I'm not sure which faith the church was, it doesn't matter. Barney just told the minister that he would take charge of the proceedings, and to take the day off. So Barney became the minister. Anne and I were there. Barney gave an astoundingly beautiful story about his life's love, in glowing terms. Their children spoke, a daughter named Gretchen. And the son. I remember that the son talked about the influence of his parents. Now here was a young man who was the son of a genius and a great artistic talent. He recalled being taught about geometry by his father. Can you imagine being taught geometry by Barney Oliver? A really intimidating thought by all of us who knew the HP Barney.
Looking at the Monterey posters, I think the funniest one I can recall featured Ralph Lee. I don't have the actual copy, they are archived in the HP library and unavailable. But I remember it showed him at a podium, giving a talk to roughly 500 Japanese, in Japan at YHP. Every person in the audience is listening intently to catch every word. In the caption that we put on the poster was this text, "This old c*** has got to cease!" That was such a typical verbal expression that was used quite a bit around HP, especially by Ralph, who was always pretty critical of poor operational performance. It was probably Bagley that came up with the caption, but Ralph's expression was dead serious. That was the beauty of the posters, in roasting managers, because they typically took a candid picture of a manager in an innocuous pose and then planted an unexpected caption on the cartoon balloon.
Ralph was a deadly enemy of partitioned offices. There were stories of him visiting divisions out in outlying cities and finding that regular executive offices had been put in. He would call in the facilities people and have the office partitions torn out and replaced with the usual multiple desks. The word got around the company that if Ralph was visiting your division, pay attention to your offices. Later on when HP went to the cubicle system, my guess is that he was not particularly happy with that. But it was such a strong movement, which was approved at CEO Young's level, that he couldn't do much about it. Employees loved cubicles because they cut down a bit on conversational noise, but did not eliminate it. But what it did do is to give some feeling of privacy and the ability to post pictures of the kids or other technical charts and that sort of thing.
I was told that one of the big advantages of having desks side-by-side, and an employee sitting near his boss, was really quite an advantage in training in the HP work culture. You could hear your boss talking to a field engineer or a production manager or perhaps even human relations. You could hear how he approached it and sold what he was talking about, all without really paying that much attention because it went on every day all day. It certainly added to me a feeling of no privacy because you couldn't talk to anyone without somebody hearing everything. But it worked for decades and in a real sense was a key part of the work culture. So from these discussions you could figure out who to call for certain problems, but also how the boss structured his questions to make the best impact and get a yes answer.
Ed van Bronkhorst, whom I really liked, was a great contributor at HP. He came from the Main, LaFrance accounting firm. He first began working for the firm on some financial projects at HP. Ed said to me once that Bill Hewlett was the luckiest engineer in Silicon Valley. He didn't mean Bill was lucky when he invented the 200A oscillator, but he was lucky to find Packard as a partner for their partnership.
Van Bronkhorst was hired to ultimately take over for Frank Cavier. Frank had been the HP finance man almost from the beginning of the partnership in 1942. Ed was first offered the job at HP and turned it down, mostly because he was expecting to be named a partner at Main, LaFrance. When that didn't happen, he came back and contacted Cavier, and reminded him that he had been offered a job earlier. He wondered if the offer might still be good? Cavier realized that his own financial acumen didn't really qualify him as the CFO of a major corporation. To his credit he knew his limits.
I think that it was to the skill and the feelings of Cavier and van Bronkhorst that their transition was made so smoothly. In other words, Dave and Bill worked with Cavier almost from the beginning of the company, and respected his feelings. They knew that he would be succeeded by a younger, more capable financial man. So Dave and Bill retained Frank, but his tasks were slowly moved over to van Bronkhorst. That transition technique seemed to happen occasionally, when various managers would reach the peak of their competence. They would not get retired but would maintain a senior consulting role.
John Young came into HP during the "Hire MBAs era" in the late 1950s. It's hard to tell just when the realization hit Bill and Dave and other top management, that there was a future succession problem for HP managers. It was perhaps in the middle 1950s, when they looked around and saw that all of the upper management were men who were in their own middle-age. They had all been born around the 1920s, and either served in the military like Bill Hewlett and Ed Porter and Al Bagley or had been in civilian war work like Eldred and Packard and Wholey and Cage.
HP had been hiring mostly BSEEs after the war and in the early 1950s, but someone must have realized that they should find people with more management education. The typical MBA curricula offered a wide list of expertise, accounting, legal, financial planning, organization, strategic considerations, and much more. This pointed to the need to hire some MBAs. John was part of a cohort of MBAs that included Dean Morton, Tom Perkins, Bill Jarvis, Frank Wezniak, Hank Taylor, Dan O'Rourke, and others. Cort Van Rensselaer had hired in a few years earlier from Stanford Business School. It's interesting that most of those new MBA hires came from either the Stanford Business School or the Harvard Business School. After the war the nation's business schools had began to emphasize in their Masters business programs the management lessons learned during the massive mobilization of WWII.
John hired in as a summer intern in 1957, and came full time in the middle of 1958. His engineering degree was from Oregon State, and he had then served several years in the USAF. He was assigned to the engineering staff for the rocket sled project of Col. John Stapp, at Holloman AFB in NM. Stapp was researching the problems of pilot bailout as jet airplanes began to hit 400 mph and approach Mach 1. The traditional bailout directly into the airstream was tantamount to being killed, and Stapp was testing bailout systems on a rocket sled. The test bed was a 1-mile long railroad rail system, guiding a ground sled propelled by a rocket motor. They used a long water trough at the far end that could slow down the sled at the end of its 600 mph run. It used a scoop that dipped into the water to decelerate.
At HP, one of John's earliest projects was reporting to Ed Van Bronkhorst, to work on the financial and operational details of HP's acquisition of all the Sales Rep companies. This was not a trivial undertaking because all of these independent businessmen were personal friends of Bill and Dave. So they had to get purchase agreements that respected the value of their companies, as well as some reduction in their independence. John's research and recommendations through Van Bronkhorst and up to Packard, for the final negotiations, were in a large part responsible for the fact that out of 13 independent businesses, fully 11 of them agreed to be acquired. And recognizing that these were highly independent-minded and opinionated owners, this was quite a feat.
As the Sales Rep acquisition project came to a successful conclusion, the decision had been made to create the first four charter divisions; Microwave, Frequency and Time, Audio-Video, and Oscilloscopes. Bruce Wholey took over as General Manager of the Microwave Division (MWD) and John was appointed to be his Marketing Manager. That was 1962. Just two years later as everyone was accommodating to the independent nature of operating divisions, the recently acquired Sanborn Division was getting into financial trouble. There was perceived to be a failure in strategic product planning. So Bruce Wholey was assigned to take over Sanborn and John Young was promoted to become the MWD manager in 1964.
John was credited with bringing what could be considered professional management into HP. Bill and Dave and the other WWII-era leaders were intuitive managers, learning as they grew. Nothing wrong with that. But John started with the central business strategy of HP, which was to invent new products, and grow at an average of 15% per year, growing with internally generated funds. He formalized the MWD's new product planning process to become a weekly Wednesday morning activity. Every month, each of the 4-5 product sections would meet with division leaders to review progress with the design team and update their own 5-year product plan. He thus engaged product planning and market research creativity at the lowest level of young managers.
Was John successful in his first general manager role? Resoundingly! The MWD grew from $20.4 million in 1964 to $75 million by 1969, a tripling of sales revenues in 5 years. The traditional HP growth of 15% per year would have merely doubled the $20.4 to $40 million in those same years. Out of this success, John was promoted to Vice-President of the Electronics Products Group in 1969. His next move to Executive Vice-President for Instruments, Computers and Components was in 1974. Finally in 1978, he was promoted to CEO. In his CEO role, which he held until his retirement in 1992, he took HP from $1.36 billion to $16.4 billion in those 14 years, which was just short of 20% compound annual growth. Remarkable.
Hewlett had taken over in 1971 when Packard went to the Pentagon. When Packard returned, he took back the Board Chairman position, and found that HP was planning to borrow $100-200 million. He was furious, and took a trip which became known as the "Give 'em Hell Trip" to the various divisions around the country. Inventory had gotten out of control and some of the production operations were not as efficient. Worse, payments from customers were way past the usual 30 days, in huge amounts. He really stirred things up. When Dave got back in his office after the tour, the loan got called off.
I didn't have much PR business with John, until the 1977-78 period as he became President and CEO. I found that, although he was not the super-friendly type of personality, I got along with him just fine. But I was getting feedback from ordinary people who found that the differences in personal style between John and Bill and Dave were noticeable,. It's hard to describe, but it was a bit of an aloofness. I remember wondering whether it was just a basic shyness, although with his MBA and his obvious competence in managing it was hard to see that shyness was one of his personality traits.
And yet, in my role as employee communications manager, and Editor of Measure, I did get this kind of feedback. They would compare John to Bill and Dave and there would be obvious contrasts that Bill and Dave would be far more accommodating and approachable. They just didn't think about John as being a management-by-walking-around manager. It is surely not my intention to criticize any such successful man for style, because he became known widely in the business community for his acumen. His reputation for integrity and good management skill was described in the book, "In Search of Excellence," the 1980s management bestseller by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman.
I can remember that John's relation with Packard became a worry for me, not that it was any of my business. But I can recall once being called out to Packard's home to talk about his HP Way book that I was editing. I went into his study and he said abruptly, "Do you know what John Young has done now?" I found it strangely unsettling, that John would have been aware of the situation and not work to smooth it out. So it appeared to me that although Packard recognized Young's competence in building the company, there were some unresolved issues as John moved ahead as CEO. I never went to John to feed back any of this information, although I possibly should have, and yet I didn't see it as my role.
I was a little surprised that John's secretary, Nancy Thoman, wouldn't have picked up on these employee comments, since she was a very competent secretary. John brought her along from his microwave division management days in the 60s. By the time John got started on his CEO years, Dave and Lucile were already working hard on their vision for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Dave was so intimately involved in the details of construction, and living part time at his home in Big Sur, to be close to Monterey, that he was probably just distracted. The Aquarium opened in 1984.
Regarding John's mental abilities, I remember that during an IEEE show in New York, several Citibank managers requested that Young come in and make a presentation on HP's situation. The bank owned a lot of HP stock so they wanted to hear from John to present the company prospects. Ed Van Bronkhorst put this meeting together with their high command. I'm not sure why he included me, but there were the three of us from HP, with a few of their Citibank top managers. They asked John to start off with his personal view of how the company was doing. John proceeded to talk for 30-40 minutes, without notes. It was an absolutely superlative review of where HP was.
You had to watch Young in a presentation like that to realize just how good he was. The facts would come out of his mouth in an absolutely perfect sequence; 1, 1a, 1b, 2, 2a, 2b, . . . His mind was so organized that his presentations really impressed the listeners. Moreover, he covered the basic facts from the point of view of the bankers, who were sitting there. He included the successes and the challenges and showed that he understood the exact concerns of bankers. He put himself into their position and then mentally structured his presentation to meet their expectations. As we were walking out, I told John that was the best review of HP I had ever heard. Van Bronkhorst was ecstatic because it put him in such a good light with this large financial institution.
John's manner could be intimidating. His mood was difficult to read. I can remember that if I knew I was going to need to see him in the morning, I would try to figure out if I wanted to try that day. Starting in the morning, I might read the situation as, "Boy today is a bad day, so I'm going to defer my meeting until tomorrow". I also remember that once I came in on a Monday morning, he had been at my desk and there was a note, "Kirby, cleanup this god damn desk." J. At this point, I'd like to observe that from my decades in industrial office environments, that there are two types of managers; the clean desk types and the cluttered desk types. John Young and Bill Terry and Dave Packard were the clean desk types. There was nothing on their desktops, and their inbox had very few papers in it. I was the cluttered desk type.
As John became CEO, HP had just started construction of the new headquarters Bldg. 20. This was a massive new structure built at the corner of Page Mill and Hanover, with the address 3000 Hanover. I think they chose that address to distinguish it from the previous corporate address of 1501 Page Mill Rd., which was adjacent just across the parking lot. Bldg. 20 was a very modern design that specifically did not use the sawtooth roof structure of the 1501 complex. Those peaked roofs always looked like a New England industrial structure to me, but yet they were ideal for directing sunlight down off of the roof, through the vertical windows, and reflecting off the inner ceiling to give a nice diffused light. It could be quite bright but it was facing North so the light was diffused.
Building 20 was built on four different levels A,B,C,D, and it was finished in construction and opened in the early 1980s. John moved all of the overhead functions of the company, several thousand jobs into the building including my own office. It made sense since he was the most important functional input to my corporate PR office. An interesting thing happened when one of the building facilities planning people was assigning the location of all the various offices, I was assigned to upper floor position that was way up the hill and a long way from the front lobby on Hanover. I have to credit Al Oliverio, who was attached to corporate marketing, for noting that my office location was in a terrible spot. I regularly dealt with media visitors, that would be coming to HP. Al was able to arrange my location on the second level essentially looking down on the main lobby and very convenient for media people coming to visit me.
Since John came out of the marketing function he had a really good feel for my job. I was afraid of him in some ways. He could be very nice but he could also be very tough. So I never knew which I was going to find. I always felt that the stress of being responsible for running a major corporation, with massive decisions on business and product strategies, could have been hard on him. This was a period in the computer world where we were making strides in taking over some of IBM's business. It was a very strategically-complex period. By that time Paul Ely had been reassigned to run the computer operation and was making strides on pulling it together.
I guess we will never know the exact basis of conflict of John and Dave. Both of these men had clear and strong visions of the future of technology and the challenges and opportunities, so you can understand some conflict, but to maintain a testy relationship for perhaps 10 years until John retired in 1992, seems like a sad decision. Then politics seems to have been a final straw. I think Young publically supported Bill Clinton in the election of 1992. I was told that by someone who was close to him. But I'm not positive of the fact, although it kind of makes some sense because he left HP right about that time. After that, Young served on President Bill Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1993 to 2000, so he was already gone from HP and Packard. People I knew, who knew both of them agreed that John was in a really difficult personal situation. He should have had a right to his own politics and yet Packard was a staunch strident Republican.
For me, John was an enigma. I could paraphrase Winston Churchill's quotation, "He is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma". I think John's relation with Bill Hewlett, in contrast, was much better, even though Bill had left active management some years before as his health was deteriorating. There wasn't much reason for an interrelation between Young and Hewlett in the 1980s.
Young and Dean Morton worked together really well. Dean had returned from his management of the HP Medical Group and became the Chief Operating Officer, COO, under John. Dean was a Harvard MBA and John of course was Stanford MBA, so they both really understood the functionalities of top management. That relationship went on for years, until John retired, then they shared an off-site office in Los Altos.