/>
X
Business

For the H-P Way, a slap in the face

 Why that's H-P's CIO Bill Mott, right in between images of company co-founders David Packard and Bill Hewlett.Time, then, for a history lesson, as well as a lament triggered by some unwelcome news.
Written by Russell Shaw, Contributor on
davidpackard.jpg
 

Why that's H-P's CIO Bill Mott, right in between images of company co-founders David Packard and Bill Hewlett.

Time, then, for a history lesson, as well as a lament triggered by some unwelcome news.

Back in 1967, the Internet did not exist. The Web was more than a quarter-century in the future. Broadband was an unknown term, as was convergence. Collaborative software, online meeting technology, or even Federal Express were some years down the line. Modern fax technology was a decade away. The best way to exchange documents was by the branded Special Delivery services of the U.S. Postal Service.

Even long-distance calling was expensive- the founders of Skype and Vonage were not even born. Phone messages were left either with answering services or on reel-to-reel answering machines.

Given these communications infrastructure challenges, there was a strong case to be made that you showed up for work at your company office, not by logging on remotely from your den at home.

But even back then, Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard had the wisdom to write: "To my mind, flextime is the essence of respect for and trust in people. It says that we both appreciate that our people have busy personal lives and that we trust them to devise, with their supervisor and work group,  a schedule that is personally convenient yet fair to others."

Mr. Packard articulated a strategy that served H-P well for many decades- that being it is not necessarily to physically be in the office to be a productive worker.

There is much to be said for the consistent record of innovation H-P has enjoyed since Mr. Packard wrote those words in his 1967 book, "The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company."  

You would think that in light of VoIP, meeting software, and other collaborative tools, this wisdom would still hold true today. An H-P IT telecommuting from, say, Incline Village, Nev., can participate in meetings just like he was there in Sunnyvale, Cal.

You would think so. But H-P's CIO Randy Mott -who joined the company last July after stints at Dell and at that paragon of employee morale Wal-Mart, now says no.

Revealed Saturday in the San Jose Mercury-News, the new H-P policy is that if you are in IT, well, you have to come into the office every single day except when you are on a road trip. Telecommuting will be the rare exception rather than a recognized right.

There is something to be said for the notion of creativity engendered from physical proximity to and with your colleagues. I mean, if you are on a WebEx session with Sunnyvale from your spread in Missoula. Mont. or Kittery, Maine, you aren't going to have the benefit of that post-meeting watercooler session or lunch break in that cool new salad bar restaurant up the road.

OK, I cede that point to Mott. But then I read Mr. Packard's words. He didn't say it is your right as an H-P employee to be based wherever you want. He said, in part, that the company trusts employees "to devise, with their supervisor and work group,  a schedule that is personally convenient yet fair to others."

I take that to mean that we trust you to know when you need to be in the office, and when you can work from home.

Seems that in the Mott era, an era where telecommuting is in vogue and the communication tools to make telecommuting more efficient than ever are available - the term "trust you to know" is no longer operative for H-P IT. 

Editorial standards