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Hans Bouman series of Shell internal emails: candid comments to Walter van De Vijver (remember him?)

We recently became aware from Shell insiders of a treasure trove of Shell internal emails from a senior Shell manager, “Hans” Bouman, widely circulated as collector items because of their outspoken and eloquent content, often on controversial subjects.

This is another one, this time to Walter van De Vijver, the Group Managing Director of the Royal Dutch Shell Group forced to resign as a result of the reserves scandal. The email in which Bouman expressed serious reservations about policy was also copied to Tom Botts and Kieron McFadyen, among others.

The repercussions are still flowing from the reserves fraud as we have seen today with the $500 million dollars set aside for settlement of yet another class action lawsuit. We do have considerable sympathy with Van De Vijver who found himself faced with an impossible dilemma by the conduct of the egomaniac spaceman, Sir Philip Watts, who placed ambition, greed and power above all else.

THE EMAIL

—–Original Message—–

From: Bouman, Hans MGJ NAM-ELG 

Sent: 03 March 2003 14:44

To:   Van De Vijver, Walter SI-MGDWV

Cc:   Botts, Tom SUKEP-UE; McFadyen, Kieron SEPI-EPG; Darley, John J SIEP-EPT; Hart, Allan A SUKEP-UEGS; Van de Leemput, Bart LEC NAM-ELN

Subject:         EP-Europe

Hello Walter (and others)

I write this short note as a concerned employee and shareholder to ensure you have heard it at least once!

EP-Europe is progressing fast and for me it cannot happen quick enough. I copy some people who know how I think about it all.

There are far too many people preparing/discussing workprocesses for producing the same molecules to the same customers via the same pipelines. We need to optimise these processes but I fear the way it is going now, there is – in my view – a fundamental flaw and a great many people agree with me. However, of late I hear too often the expression: you are right but we take this as a given and will not rock that boat. And this also comes from senior people and/or younger hipos. 

If we introduce a RTD next to a RPD, and make the RTD responsible for development planning, projects, drilling etc,  we have forgotten the bureaucracy and numerous interfaces of the very large (dys-)functional organisations in the late 80s and which triggered the introduction of Business Units or Assets. Those worked quite well provided they were big enough to sustain functional excellence. They went wrong where we succumbed to the gurus of LEAP with their self managing teams and other hypes and where we were not tough enough on delivering the promised performance.

Therefore, please kill the dual accountability and dashed lines in organogrammes and create an Asset Director (on top of 5-6 big assets) and a Services Director (e.g. Drilling, Wellservices, Inspection etc). This will ensure focus on the bottom line as well as functional excellence and keep accountabilty deep in the organisation. Put all technical standards into SEPTAR, remove all the policy (re-)writers from EP-Europe, put your most clever and shrewd people in the Commercial/Planning outfit that should drive the business, insist that the Technical Service outfit becomes best in class and reward performance rather than promise.

By announcing the new bosses and telling them to start organising, the new organisation will quickly fall in line since we will then focus on the right problems and people can align with these new bosses. Always remember: people want identify with a visible team and their contribution should be clear. Apart from some minor details as Staffcouncil and legal stuff, you could start this organisation now.

Hans

============================================

Hans Bouman

Manager Asset Groningen

Tel: +31 592 3 63276           GSM: 06 201 35 448

Internet: [email protected]

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