Summary of Becoming Hewlett Packard

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A company that lives a long time must remain in “a state of becoming,” say authors Robert A. Burgelman, Webb McKinney and Philip E. Meza. A firm that maintains its flexibility can adapt repeatedly to changes in technology or in the market. Because Hewlett Packard’s (HP) founders and subsequent leaders made the ability to change into an intrinsic part of the corporate culture, the company has thrived in several fields, including instrumentation, computers, printers and IT services. The authors analyze how successive CEOs bolstered or undercut HP’s ability to evolve. getAbstract recommends this enlightening, often absorbing history of HP’s executive strategies to entrepreneurs and senior managers.  

About the Authors

Robert A. Burgelman, the former executive director of Stanford University’s Executive Program, is the Edmund W. Littlefield Professor of Management at Stanford Business School. Consultant Webb McKinney has held engineering and management positions at HP. Consultant and researcher Philip E. Meza focuses on technology strategy and business development.



Corporate “Becoming”

A great company maintains a continuous “state of becoming” – that is, evolving and adapting within as well as in response to external market and technology changes. It is constantly transforming to find and provide new sources of value to customers and shareholders. Most companies don’t manage even one such transformation. Tech giant Hewlett Packard (HP) thrived through six of them and is working on its seventh (if you count founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard as one administration).

The CEO’s Role

Maintaining a state of corporate becoming requires effective strategic leadership. All of a company’s major executives play important roles, but the CEO is primarily responsible for three essential strategic tasks:

  1. Identify the market in which the company will compete and define the necessary strategy.
  2. Ensure that this positioning aligns with the company’s “distinctive competence.”
  3. Make sure that its execution aligns with its strategy.

The CEO must cultivate four essential components of the firm’s “strategic leadership capability”:

  1. Articulate a clear overarching...

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