The Age of Agility in Business5 Oct, 2015 By: Steve Weedon, Discover Imaging Products, LTD
On November 1, 2015, Hewlett Packard, as we have known it, will cease to be.
On this day, the company will split into two separate public entities. Meg Whitman, current HP CEO and Chairman, has decided, as part of her turnaround plan, that the company needs to be more “agile” to strengthen its ability to further grow and prosper.
Since its inception in 1935, HP has pioneered technologies that have changed the way we live our lives. It has done this one step at a time. Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett produced their first product in 1938, producing electrical oscillators for Walt Disney, in the company garage that they occupied until 1940. When the WWII came along Bill Hewlett served in the US Army until 1947, while Dave ran the business.
HP’s relocation to Palo Alto, California, changed this sleepy fruit growing area and helped turn it into the Silicon Valley we know today. Able to go public in 1957, HP truly became a global company by 1959.
Dave Packard was appointed the US Deputy Secretary of Defense in 1969 and served till 1972.
1971 saw the invention of the Interferometer, a device that can measure infinitesimal measurements, particularly useful in the silicon chip industry. Bill Hewlett retired as CEO in 1978, handing over to veteran HP employee, John Young.
1984 saw the first laser printer launched, 1993 saw the 10-millionth laser printer sold, and by 2006 the 100 million mark was surpassed. Now if that is not being agile, I don’t know what is.
Yet, somewhere along the line it’s been lost. It seems today that the expectations of public company investors are that trees really must grow towards the sky. Onwards and relentlessly upwards is now a demand. Since 1978 HP has had 13 more CEO’s, each grappling with their problems of trying to forecast and deliver returns to their investors. To figure out the future, gaze into the proverbial crystal ball and then set the strategy and then just, go for it.
HP, are of course not the only ones trying to figure it out. We are all trying to do the same. It’s not easy, is it? Michael Dell for example, decided it was best to buy back his company (DELL) and go private to get away from the demands of public investors. Meg Whitman is choosing to go in the opposite direction and split HP into two public companies.
Whether we are industry giants or small fish in the imaging pond, we have the same issues to deal with. The industry is complex and figuring out a successful strategy that creates growth and profitability is no easy task. Like Michael and Meg, who have totally opposite strategies for future success, companies involved in the imaging aftermarket have had to make their plans and decisions also.
Only time will tell, of course, just who has the best strategies and who faded away. But continuing to do the same old thing, expecting different results, guarantees nothing but failure. Changing quickly to correct a failing strategy, ultimately always leads to success, and doing nothing on the other hand, guarantees falling further and further behind.
“Business, more than any other occupation is a continual dealing with the future, it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight” said Henry R Luce 1898-1967, once the most influential private American citizen of his day. (Magazine Magnate; born Shandong, China, died in Arizona, USA.)
“Agility” is the new watchword in business today. The nimbler the company the stronger it will be. Food for thought, indeed.