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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 09-Jul-07


Monday 09-July-07

Farewell, Joe

Joe Podolsky, an old and dear friend, died at the weekend. I met him only a few times but we conversed over many years. He was someone I loved and admired and who had a significant influence on my life.

We met when we both worked in Hewlett Packard were a part of a vibrant community of people there who thought that improving the business was both critical and very interesting. We went to world-wide conferences, exchanged ideas and spread new thinking as far as we could. Changing minds was the order of the day and few did it better than Joe.

Back in the early 1990s the internet was in its infancy but Joe was in there, thinking and sharing in the generous way he lived. Joe's Jottings became a company symbol for sharing. Here's the very first one. As ever, it challenged conventional thinking and contained perhaps uncomfortable truths.

Date: 29 November 1994

As you all know, I read a lot of stuff. I was telling someone about one of the articles I had seen, and he very kindly suggested that others also might be interested. So, I'll occasionally share with you a short note about something I think is unusual or important. I'll also tell you where I saw the article, so you can dig into it more if you want.

Please let me know if you want me to continue this. Feel free to share this with anyone you want.

Here's the abstract of the article that got this started:

Three professors collected data from 176 MIS projects at 60 different organizations (No, I don't know if HP is represented). They looked at the size, risk, and organizational commitment for the projects based on how they were selected. Here's what they found:

Projects selected by top management do NOT tend to be more strategic, profitable, resource consuming, larger risk, or related to organizational well-being than other project selection groups. These projects, however, did tend to experience the longest start delay and elapsed development time.

Projects selected by steering committees tended to be larger and riskier, and require more organizational change. Formal cost-benefit analysis is more predominant, but surprisingly, projects selected are NOT more cross-functional in scope.

User department-selected projects, comparatively, are smaller, more quickly developed, and involve the fewest users, layers of management, and business functions.

MIS-selected projects have more of an integration focus and follow more logical sequences of development. Their projects experience fewer delays in deliberation and duration, and less concern is given to cost benefit analysis.

from McKeen, Guimaraes, and Wetherbe, "A Comparative Analysis of MIS Selection Mechanisms," ACM DATA BASE, August 1994, pp19 - 39.

Regards, Joe

This idea of just openly sharing reading and thinking was typical of the HP Way, which Joe embodied so well. He set an example that I have tried to emulate ever since and this website is a direct result.

When I think of Joe now I feel warm and happy. He had a good life and made a difference, which is perhaps the best you can say of anyone.

Farewell, Joe.

 I will remember Joe as an agile-minded and generous man. As Chaucer wrote when he described the Clerk on the pilgrimage to Canterbury: "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."

-- Bruce Karney (HP 1981-2005)

I will always remember Joe with fondness. He was one of the people who interviewed me when I applied to join HP's Corporate Quality group in Palo Alto. After I got the job in Corporate Quality in early 1988, Joe provided me needed orientation, valuable advice, human warmth, and intelligent humor. As did many others, I enjoyed reading "Joe's Jottings" and occasionally participated in his book discussion group. My sincerest condolences go to his wife Hudi, their daughters, and the extended family.

-- Doug Daetz

I just got back from a lovely ceremony at Beth Am in Palo Alto, a beautiful synagogue on about 10 acres of land in the Los Altos foothills.  Probably 800 to 1000 people there.  Learned lots more about Joe, a very loved man.

-- Mike Ward

 Hi, just dropped by to

1. say thanks for your site. I really adore it, I rarely learned so much in so little time in such interesting topics.

2. Rant about HP. A friend of mine literally adores HP, not the brand of course, but the entire engineering mentality. He'd like to live in HP "golden era". Not surprisingly he is an excellent electronic engineer, just 35 years old, but nonetheless among the few ones who still has that special quid about knowledge, understanding, an approach that is fascinatingly happy yet still rational to reality ..that makes him a special person to me, notwithstanding his serious social personal shortcomings.

I am saddened by your loss and even more saddened to see that we are still ruled by a status-quo that prefers stagnation to rapid development, ruling by deceptive confusion, just because they are NOT able to keep the pace and therefore are afraid to lose control. It appears to me that Joe, by sharing that insight, wanted to point out such shortcoming.

Which is a behavior absolutely not appreciated by many.

In your site I see the same desire to share, to learn, to communicate with likely minded people. It mainly shames, while at the same time inspiring me, that I have not been able, so far, to achieve such sharing results. I hope I'll will be able in the future.

Signed and sincerely,

Mario, just a guy from Italy.

Dave replies:
Thanks, Mario. Joe was an inspiration to many. He in turn was inspired by Bill and Dave (Hewlett and Packard) and probably others. You don't have to be an engineer to look past the money. The greatest legacy is the number of people you inspire. I've written of other inspirations, such as in 'Friends and fathers
' and do what I can. I'm still just a guy, too, and struggle each day to get things right.

Hi Everyone. I don't know if you're still tracking this blog thread or if you'll get this, but I wanted to thank you.

As some of you know, I'm Joe's youngest daughter, Joni. I was Googling my dad's name to see if I could find any of his old jottings. I'm planning to start my own blog, Joni's Jottings--a bit of a salute to my dad--and wanted to reference his jottings as my first blog entry.

What a lovely surprise to find this blog in his memory, and to find that someone compiled all his jottings on a website!

He was so incredibly prolific, and I am not, but it will still be fun for me to blog.

I don't know who started this blog, or who took the time to make his jottings into a website, but I thank you so much for keeping his spirit alive in this way!

All the best, Joni

Joe's Jottings is an inspiration to me, and Joe and I had several lively, enjoyable email discussions.

Joe continues to make a difference.

Best regards, Gary Tracy

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