The individual at the heart of the organization

Dave Packard’s 11 simple rules

The founders of Hewlett-Packard, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, created a culture which penetrated deep into the company. They wanted to place the individual at the very heart of the organization

More than sixty years ago, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard created a culture that penetrated deep into the company that they founded together and which bears their names: Hewlett-Packard. From the beginning, the founders placed the individual at the very heart of their organization. Indeed, one of the key elements to their culture is the way people are treated. A few months ago, a good friend who holds a management post at the Spanish subsidiary of Agilent Technologies sent me a brief document prepared by Dave Packard for the annual management convention held at Sonoma in 1958. It contains 11 pieces of advice about how to treat people. These are 11 real pearls of wisdom, expressed clearly and directly, and I pass them on here in the hope that they will be of help to the reader. They are reproduced courtesy of the archives of Agilent Company.


1. I first think of the other person. This is the key - the first requirement - to getting on well with others. It is the most difficult thing to do. If you succeed, the rest is a piece of cake.

2. Reinforce the other person’s feeling of importance. When we make someone else feel less important we frustrate one of their deepest instincts. Make the other person feel equal or superior and you will get on well with them.

3. Respect the other person’s individuality. Respect the other person’s right to be different from you. No two people are molded by the same forces.

4. Offer sincere recognition. If we believe someone has done something well, we should not hesitate in telling them. Warning: this does not imply the immoral use of flattery. For intelligent people, flattery produces exactly the response that it deserves, disdain that someone has lowered themselves.

5. Eliminate anything negative. Criticism rarely achieves what we intend, since it invariably causes resentment. The smallest suggestion of disapproval may cause resentment - to your own detriment - for years.

6. Avoid any attempt to change people. Everyone knows they are imperfect, but they don’t want other people to try to correct their faults. If you want someone to improve, help them to embrace a higher goal, a standard, an ideal, and this will work much more effectively for them than you can.

7. Try to understand the other person. How would you react in similar circumstances? When you see the other person’s “whys” you can’t help but get on well with them.

8. Check your first impressions. We are inclined not to like someone at first sight as a result of some vague similarity (of which we are not usually aware) with another person whom we have a reason to dislike. Follow the advice that Abraham Lincoln gave himself: “If I don’t like this man, I have to get to known him better”.

9. Take care of the small details. Watch your smile, your tone of voice, the way you look at people, the way you greet them, the use of nicknames, a memory for faces, names and dates. These small things will refine your ability to get on with others. Always be aware that these things form part of your personality.

10. Develop a genuine interest in people. You cannot apply the foregoing advice unless you want to like other people, respect them and be useful to them. By contrast, you can’t develop a genuine interest in people until you have experienced the pleasure of working with them in an environment of mutual appreciation and respect.

11. Persevere. That’s all, persevere!