If Only Hp Knew What Hp Knows

Topics: Knowledge management / Pages: 11 (2747 words) / Published: Mar 2nd, 2013

“If Only HP Knew What HP Knows . . .”

Thomas H. Davenport

Innovation in Action

About the author: Tom Davenport, professor of Information Management at the University of Texas, Austin, is best known for his research on how organizations bring about major innovations in their work processes. His 1993 book, Process Innovation: Reengineering Work through Information Technology, was the first book to describe what has become known as “business reengineering.” More recently, Davenport’s research interest has shifted to the question of whether “knowledge work” is characterized by processes and amenable to process improvement. Last year, he published “Improving Knowledge Work Processes” in Sloan Management Review. He also has two books forthcoming on related topics.

ewlett-Packard is a large, successful company with over $38 billion in 1996 revenues. Its fast annual revenue growth—approximately 30%—from such a large base has astounded observers. The company competes in many markets, including computers and peripheral equipment, test and measurement devices, electronic components, and medical devices. It has 112,000 employees and over 600 locations around the world.


HP is known for its relaxed, open culture. All employees, including the CEO, work in open cubicles. Many employees are technically-oriented engineers who enjoy learning and sharing their knowledge. The company is perceived as being somewhat benevolent to its employees, and fast growth has obviated the need for major layoffs. All employees participate in a profit-sharing program. The company is also known for its decentralized organizational structure and mode of operations. Business units that perform well have a very high degree of autonomy. There is little organized sharing of information, resources, or employees across units. HP managers feel that the strong business-specific focus brought by decentralization is a key factor in the firm’s recent success. Although culturally open to

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