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walk through time

Remarks following the Walk Through Time at the State of the World Forum
Barbara Waugh
Manager, Worldwide Personnel, HP Labs

November 5, 1997
San Francisco, Calif.

I'd like to just say, first of all, welcome, welcome, welcome. And thank you for being the listening, the experiencing, the opening for us to have this experience of ourselves contributing. Without you and the State of the World Forum we couldn't be having this experience. Thank you.

barb-port.jpg (22154 bytes)I want to talk a minute about how we came to do this Walk Through Time. Because while HP is a remarkable and unique company, I utterly believe that similar things are happening elsewhere and that it is up to us, in these rooms, to assure that the pace at which the things like this are happening escalates and accelerates and that we do all that we can to make sure that occurs. Given the rate of forces moving in the contrary direction.

The Walk Through Time actually started out of a project that was begun in HP Labs to make us the best industrial research lab in the world. Now this is similar to what goes on in many companies in the quality function. So I'm suggesting that many quality projects could be reframed along these lines. I then was chatting with friends in the GenerativeLeadership Group...Rayona Sharpnack, Mel Toomey and Ed Gerowitz...about how unexciting, fundamentally, this vision was. To be best in the world. I mean, it was my job and even I wasn't very turned on by it. And it was troubling because I really believed we could do so much more; yet, somehow, we couldn't come up with something that got us going. They said, "You know, the vision isn't big enough. You need a vision so big that everybody else's individual visions will be required to accomplish the larger vision."

So I went back to Labs and said, "I was talking to Mel and what do you think this means?" We had some real interesting conversations. And then I remember in my cubicle one morning, on my second cup of tea, Laurie Mittelstadt said, "You know, I would get up in the morning to be the best lab for the world. That would get me going."

Out of that conversation came the shift from this quality project, essentially to be the best in the world, which had us benchmarking other companies and trying to be better than they were, to being best for the world. As Lew Platt mentioned last night, what occurred then was a gradual emergence of soul in our company around this project.  People came from other divisions and from the corporate ranks to co-create.

Together, we began to explore what HP for the World would look like. Literally, what would the picture be? Sid Liebes was playing around with images on his computer and came up with lots of ideas.  Rhonda Kirk, then an administrative assistant, pick the one that said it best:  Bill and Dave, our founders, standing at the garage, with the image of the world inside the garage. This then became an icon in the company for HP for the World. It has sold 90,000 copies through the company store and been seen by several million people at this point. It's been used to express the intention in the company at recruiting events and sales events and so forth. Now, together, we're beginning to explore what HP for the World might look like as a corporation.

What's exciting about this is that this vision for the company, HP for the World, came from the grass roots. With absolutely no barrier to its adoption by any level of the hierarchy. Our CEO was the first to applaud it. And before we'd even got the ink dry on our first poster, he asked if he could use it as a gift to the CEO of Canon, with whom we have a key partnership. Here you have the CEO basically adopting a vision that originated in the grass roots as the vision for the company.

In reflecting about what the Walk has meant to me personally, I think one thing that's happened is that the work/life balance issue—which has been how do you balance the work and the life and how do you get spirit in the workplace—so many of these balancing acts have just dissolved, as I personally have come from a deeper place, below those divisions, which are, after all, imposed by cultural constructs. Below all that, life and soul are organic; things are connected.

swfrick.jpg (28792 bytes)We have, in the course of this, come to know each other in new ways. Rick Walker, who is here today, said, "Well, gee..." —and Rick I've known as an engineer for some time—"...I'm the World Wide Webmaster for carnivorous plants. And there are a lot of great plants that were there then and still are with us now. I'll do a companion exhibit of Plants Through Time." So Rick put together a wonderful exhibit and another way of appreciating life.

One of our engineers...I'm in human resources, so I'm supposed to be very open minded and so forth...but I really had Rolf, my friend Rolf, now my friend Rolf, kind of sized up as your basic brilliant, cynical, Ph.D. engineer who was going to do his science and go home. So with that attitude I asked him, "Hey Rolf, I hear that you're in a band and we need some music for this Walk Through Time, would you help us out?" Well, no, he didn't think so. Of course that answer didn't surprise me. So after we did our first presentation he came up to me and he said, "You asked me for the wrong thing. You should have asked me for the music to accompany the Bill Hewlett flower pictures you showed." He said, "That's the kind of music I write. I'll drop you off a tape."

I listened to this tape. I'm riding home and I think that I have to listen to it because he gave it to me. I almost had an accident on the freeway. The first song...and this is the music you've been hearing throughout our meeting today...was called Celestial Awakening. And has been played in world wide healing meditations for the last ten years by Rolf. This is somebody I thought I knew. And I talked to one of his friends who's commuted with him for ten years and didn't know Rolf was up to this stuff. The second song was called Eric's Tears, and was written about his son's first disappointment in life.

This is who we are in our companies. This is who we are in our agencies. This is who we are together at our tables. We are these rich, full, spiritual, physical, mental, human beings. And we have all this to bring to bear on the things that trouble us. How do we release it?

What happened for me is I am really beginning to understand the difference between managing from my plans—I said I was going to do this and this and this and this—and managing from my commitments. When I manage from my commitments, there are all kinds of ways to get there. They may not look like what I was thinking. It positions me to stay open, always, to what can be the better way to get there than what I'm currently thinking.

I think also, as a person that's involved in organizational life, through the Walk, I've come to have a very rich experience of what many theorists are now writing about. Which is that really the machine metaphor—the command and control model, the hierarchy—can no longer be our dominant understanding of organizational life. Whereas there may be moments where that is what we need to do, they are much fewer and further between than we ever thought. The complex living organism is, in fact, a better metaphor. Wherein any part of the organism can lead at any given time, given what's needed at that moment. I see employees leading the company. I see a CEO who has positioned himself to listen and to amplify, wherever in the ranks the direction is coming from, to amplify that and allow that to lead the company. I've had that visceral experience and that's been a very transformative one for me out of the Walk Through Time.

In conclusion, I'd just like to say that I'd really love to hear from you all. We're going to be moving into a town meeting format. I'd love to hear what you think your own movement could be along the road of "for the world," from where you sit.

Thank you.

For more information on the State of the World Forum, see their Web site.

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