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Hans Bouman outspoken email to Jeroen van der Veer

The following email containing comments of a controversial nature about current senior managers at Royal Dutch Shell was supplied to us as a result of our appeal for any vintage Hans Bouman emails still in circulation.

They are apparently viewed by Shell insiders as prized collectible items because of the outspoken and lucid writing style of this former senior Shell manager. This particular email was sent at a time when Shell management was still being bombarded with the fall out from the Shell reserves fraud.

It is interesting to note that John Hofmeister was subsequently sent back to the USA as suggested in the Bouman email, but as President of Shell Oil Company. He is currently on a 50 city tour promoting Shell but also promoting himself. These developments may not necessarily have been what Mr Bouman had in mind. We have a leaked copy of the Business Week speech by Jeroen van der Veer mentioned in the email.  If any of our readers would like to receive a copy, please contact [email protected]

THE EMAIL

—–Original Message—–
From: M.G.J. (Hans) Bouman [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 29 May 2004 13:21

To: Van der Veer, Jeroen J SI-MGDJV
Subject: comments on your Business Week speech

Hello Jeroen

I read your speech at the Business Week. From various sources in Shell I received 5 copies.

My tone will now become harder than in my previous email and I will explain why. You say all the right things. I almost hear myself talking the last 7 years. But I do not see how these words will be turned into actions without removing many of the sycophants, bullies and those without personal integrity (me first, company later) that you have around you in the top 400.

You also better spend more time on where we will get projects at the beginning of the funnel. Prolonging heartlands will not do the trick. Only exception is perhaps Nigeria but our HR processes have ensured that mainly the lower quality expatriates end up there.

Addressing failures in performance can only be done if we take emotion out of the evaluation. And you need different people, i.e. you need people that are proud of their company and less obsessed with getting more money. So, your latest announcement to include Linda Cook into the CMD is completely at loggerheads with all you say. She has ZERO supporters and everyone I know that has worked with her (quite a few people in jg1-D) is completely negative. I have not come across exceptions. The rude removal of v.d.Vijver and Coopman, both of whom have a wide base of support in EP is also a wrong sign. I know you were trying to save Shell but by shooting the messenger and sacrificing Walter, who after all only made one error in judgement (being loyal too long to the boss) is inexcusable. Removing Watts and Boynton was good, but the price of collateral damage is far too high. Walter had done great things and the guts to make genuine changes and all this was forgotten?

On Teamwork: the last few years an atmosphere of fear has been created. One has to agree with the boss (americans are very good at this) or else you are an enemy to be bullied out. How come someone like Ward still hangs around, if anyone cannot take criticism it is he and he was the architect of Drilling in the Nineties, he was the MD that laid the foundation for the crisis in PDO and he destroyed NAM.

Please stop using, as you propose, the People Survey. You waste money and resources at a grand scale. You get whatever you want out of these surveys. And the organisation is completely tired and fed-up with them.

You rightly need a step change in behaviours. Start by removing all those behaviour gurus, Hofmeister first. Declare publicly that LEAP has failed. It created and let in people with the wrong behaviours. You want LAT. Better go to clearly defined single point Accountability and leave the nonsense of the dual accountability in EP Europe. My comments on why that would fail led to my forced redundancy. And everyone I spoke to agreed with me. But arguing with the boss is not done, despite the invitation for comments.

Stop this arguing for sameness rather than difference. Only when it is fit for purpose, else you should treasure difference and diversity. This sameness is only driven by megalomaniacs who want to run Shell with one joystick. That is possible but only for a few years (not sustainable) and you need zero tolerance for underperformance. Stalin knew. But poor Russia paid the price.

You make a very dangerous remark that you will ‘include desired behaviours’ in the way we select and appraise people. We do that since 1995 and many real good people were removed that did not fit the required behaviour and the rats came in. How do you ever hope to manage this without removing the people at the coalface who do the initial screening on recruits or who do appraisal of others? Only a large scale culling in the top will show you are serious and then it will trickle down.

You state that the cost per senior employee has gone up substantially the last few years. Remember I told you this during the farewell of Roels? And you knew already at that time! Hofmeister and Dubnicki (I only know EP) have increased in a scandalous manner the cost of senior employees. They also allowed the expatriation to explode while EP wanted expatriation to go down. With their american values and veiled threats for litigation, they instilled a culture of grab while the grabbing is good.

Have a word with Brinded on his many consecutive years in Shell Expro where they failed to meet their business targets since these where always too “aspirational”.

You need to cleanse Shell like South Africa cleansed themselves after the apartheid and how Germany cleansed themselves after WW2 starting with the Neurenberg trials. Pretending it is business as usual with some small modifications will not do.

I apologise for the long email but I am still a shareholder and I cannot switch off after 32 years with Shell.

This email has been written in all honesty and with good faith that you will try to make something of this mess.

Kind regards

Hans

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M.G.J.(Hans) Bouman

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