Sustainable Growth:

Institutional Excellence

Case Study:  The Hewlett-Packard Way

Sustaining Competitive Advantage by Managing Critical Opposites

By: Vadim Kotelnikov

Founder, Ten3 Business e-Coach Inspiration and Innovation Unlimited!

"Change starts when someone sees the next step." ~ William Drayton

Three Core Elements of the HP Way

  1. Defining and Agreeing on the HP Values: providing the framework for setting corporate objectives and establishing standards for HP employees in dealing with their co-workers and customers.

  2. Setting and Agreeing on the Objectives: getting everyone to agree on corporate objectives and to understand what the company is trying to achieve.

  3. Empowering Employees: turning everybody loose, so that people could move along in a common direction.



The Centerpiece of the HP Way

HP Values

  • We approach each situation with the belief that people want to do a good job and will do so, given the proper tools and support. We attract highly capable, diverse, and innovative people and recognize their efforts and contribution to the company.

  • Our customers expect HP products and services to be of the highest quality and to provide lasting value. To achieve this, all HP people but especially managers must be leaders who generate enthusiasm enthusiasm and respond with extra effort to meet customer needs.

  • We expect HP people to be open and honest in their dealings, so as to earn the trust and loyalty of others. People at every level are expected to adhere to the highest standards of business ethics and must understand that anything less is totally unaccepted.

  • We recognize that it is only through effective cooperation within and among the organizations that we can achieve our goals.

  • We create an inclusive work environment that supports the diversity of our people and stimulates innovation. We allow people flexibility in working towards goals in ways that they help determine are best for the organization.

HP Corporate Culture Is Based On:

  1. respect for others

  2. a sense of community

  3. plain hard work

Competitive Advantage

HP leaders have "an advantage that enables them to learn and adjust as few others can. The depth, breadth, and vitality that come alive daily through the firm's values  the HP Way are asset from which most of the Silicon Valley continues to learn. HP general managers regularly discuss and assess the vitality of the HP Way, a process, that inevitably results in corrective actions to ensure its continued viability."2

HP Values


Originally put in writing in 1989 by David Packard, HP values are the centerpiece of the Hewlett-Packard Way. "Hewlett-Packard's stated values are not uniquely different from most major companies. What makes the HP Way unique, though, is the seriousness with which values are treated as a management tool. They are not spread by sloganeering, but serve as criteria for daily decision-making and advancement. Brought to life as well as Hewlett-Packard does the HP Way, values based management lifts everyone above trivial concerns to focus on those that are truly important."2

Inspiring Culture: 5 Elements

Integrating Critical Opposites

To create an organization that could sustain its competitive advantage regardless of marketplace whims and what their competitors were building, HP founders based their corporate culture on the integration and reinforcement of critical opposites. This became known as the Hewlett-Packard Way. HP has achieved "what appears to be the greatest dichotomy: creating an environment that celebrates individualism, but at the same time one that is also wholly supportive of teamwork. Although HP people are taught to engage in cross-functional teams, they are also rated on the performance of decentralized business units and personal achievement."1

Supporting Teamwork

"Interesting, when the Japanese look at HP, they say this is a Japanese company. This stems from the Japanese focus on teamwork and on forging a highly developed collaborative workplace. In an Asian environment, the group supercedes the individual."1

HP environment is not a near clone of the Japanese-style teamwork, however. The company managed to avoid the traditional weaknesses of both American and Japanese companies that have allowed either individualism or consensus building to be taken to the extreme. HP excelled in managing dualities specifically in creating a delicate balance between individual creativity and teamwork.

Developing Cross-functional Individuals

Most companies tend to recruit, train and promote people within functional corridors. But Hewlett-Packard (HP) breaks the walls, creating a carrier network that begins with the recruitment of diverse people in terms of their skills and personality and then promotes horizontally, as well as vertically throughout the company. "Typically, HP employees move through four to six functional areas in the course of their carriers. This creates broad knowledge of the company and fosters the kind of teamwork other companies covet".1

Systemic Innovation: 7 Areas

Smart Business Architect

When it comes time to promote, managers don't look who is next down the carrier line, they look for the best people. Neither employees should follow a pre-defined path to a particular post, nor need they to get a bigger title to be given new responsibility.

SYNERGISTIC ORGANIZATION (Ten3 Mini-course) - How To Build a Modern Winning Organization




  1. "Extreme Management", Mark Stevens

  2. Relentless Growth, Christopher Meyer


  1. Synergistic Organization, Vadim Kotelnikov

  2. Inspiring Corporate Culture, Vadim Kotelnikov

  3. 3 Strategies of Market Leaders, Vadim Kotelnikov