Thursday, August 5, 2010

David Packard" “More organizations die of indigestion than starvation” - Bob Sutton

David Packard" “More organizations die of indigestion than starvation” - Bob Sutton

David Packard" “More organizations die of indigestion than starvation”

My last post made me nostalgic for the old HP. Those of us who are faculty members in the Stanford School of Engineering have a special place in our hearts for the company that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started. They were students here and started the company with $500 borrowed from Fred Terman, who was dean of the school for many years. They also donated very generously to the school; a building is named after Bill, another after Dave, and a third after Fred Terman -- all built with HP riches. I also have been influenced by the old HP's values, which helped shape my belief that a good company or boss ought to be judged on both performance and humanity -- indeed, that is is exactly how I define a good boss in my new book.

I have blogged about it before, but it is a good time to revisit David Packard's wisdom. His quote in the title is wonderful. The worst managers and companies often seem to be doing too many things, making things too complicated for insiders and outsiders, and suffering from scattered attention rather than a sharp focus on what matters most. If you think about Apple, a big part of their brilliance is how few things they do -- they have a remarkably small product line for such a big company, for example.

I especially love Dave's 11 Simple Rules, which he first presented at a company meeting in 1958 but are just as valid now as they were then. Here are the first five:

1. Think first of the other fellow. This is THE foundation — the first requisite — for getting along with others. And it is the one truly difficult accomplishment you must make. Gaining this, the rest will be "a breeze."

2. Build up the other person's sense of importance. When we make the other person seem less important, we frustrate one of his deepest urges. Allow him to feel equality or superiority, and we can easily get along with him.

3. Respect the other man's personality rights. Respect as something sacred the other fellow's right to be different from you. No two personalities are ever molded by precisely the same forces.

4. Give sincere appreciation. If we think someone has done a thing well, we should never hesitate to let him know it. WARNING: This does not mean promiscuous use of obvious flattery. Flattery with most intelligent people gets exactly the reaction it deserves — contempt for the egotistical "phony" who stoops to it.

5. Eliminate the negative. Criticism seldom does what its user intends, for it invariably causes resentment. The tiniest bit of disapproval can sometimes cause a resentment which will rankle — to your disadvantage — for years.

Looking at these rules and the others on Dave's list, my gut reaction is that gurus who say we need to "reinvent management" are wrong or at least greatly exaggerating things. Perhaps what we need to do instead is to go back to the future. It strikes me that all we need to really do is to include women in Dave's vision and then implement such ancient truths in our modern workplaces. The evidence I know suggests that we would all be better for it, in terms of both performance and humanity.

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