Jonathan's Soapbox

This page first posted 13 November 1998.

The HP Way.

Had an OHS refresher class today. These are now "compulsory" at HP, and are expected to become part of the state legislation in 1999, for companies employing 10 or more people.

The guy giving it is great. He comes in dressed like a roadie. Marshall T-shirt, black of course, long hair in a ponytail, jeans, hyperactive habits. He is the spitting image of Jon English, which simply adds to the effect. We cover everything from anatomy to law via furniture. He sips V8 almost without pausing. When he uses the overhead projector he puts on his green sunnies with Elvis Costello frames. He reconfigures ergonomic furniture like the Harlem Globe Trotters move basket balls---flip, swish, click and you can type and stand up; zip, phoot, clang and he looks like the desk and his body were explosion-moulded by Compaq for an ad campaign. This guy is on the ball. That was lunchtime, now it's almost 5PM, and I type this on a new desk where my the monitor fits properly. It works, mate.

For those who do not register the irony in the title, "The HP Way" is the organisation, policy, manner, the very philosophy of existence purportedly breathed by HP employees and managers. It is viewed by the rest of the industry as propaganda that makes us a family (true to some extent), as an ostentatiously-Californian atmosphere of informality (also true, it takes a trained eye to spot a manager or to identify a manager's office), and as the organisation of the workplace (cubes, one per capita, though this does not stretch down to the fabettes). It more importantly means the long-term, honourable and community-concious corporate philosophy. We all get pamphlets on the rules that shape the HP community, there are books published on it. There is certainly a distinctive style to the place, though the reality can be tarnished in spots. One cornerstone is "no layoffs", the closest you get to tenure in capitalist heaven. Problem is, another cornerstone of success-with-honour is being willing to abort muddled enterprises and weak or unsuccessful projects: HP has totally dumped losing schemes in the past, like disk drives in the late 80s. Staff are "reassigned". Our library is about to lose its temporary sub-under-librarian, a productive chap, to make way for a reassigned permanent ex-manager. This experiment will be followed with interest, so stay tuned.

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