I read your site always with great interest and believe you should post this letter to all Shell staff.
As a Shell employee I believe this is a concerted effort, coordinated by the spindoctors and lawyers of Shell, to get off the hook when it comes to a courtcase. Jeroen is far too bright not to understand what is really happening. But he prefers to listen to his lawyers rather than be a tough director and remove some managers who have lied to him and/or underperformed.
Remarkable it needs to be reminded that safety is #1 after all the stories in the press and your site. We already knew that for the last 25 years or more. Or does he think the current generation of ‘leaders’ have different ideas?
Your site is genuinely open and transparent, you publish the good and the bad stuff for all to read.
Please keep your site going,
Date: 17 July 2006
Subject: Safety is Job No.1
This letter has been translated into twelve other languages.
Please click here http://sww.shell.com//home/news/2376/current.aspx for a translation.
This is my first monthly letter. As I told our senior leaders during Shell Business Week, I intend to write to you over the coming year – beyond my usual messages. I will share my views on key topics with everyone across Shell. In doing so, I hope we get more alignment around our top priorities as a company. I encourage you all to discuss the points I raise so that we can deliver on Shell’s strategy “More Upstream, Profitable Downstream”, driven by a first quartile mentality.
So I hope you will openly share your views with others around you. I invite your direct feedback. I will read it, and learn from your input (please keep it simple, short and straight). You can be sure that I will try to better understand how the people of Shell see our challenges, our strength and opportunities. That is my receiving end of the conversation – your words to me.
The first key topic is safety. Why safety, you may ask. Are we not focusing on Delivery and Growth, Operational Excellence and a First Quartile Mentality? True, but frankly – without a further improved safety performance, little else matters.
There are good reasons for focusing on safety that go beyond the recent week everyone in Downstream devoted to the topic. Safety is a right and an obligation. Safety embodies our values – honesty, integrity and respect for people. And achieving better safety performance is Enterprise First in action. Without a strong safety culture, all other aspects of our culture will erode. To me, safety is one main driver and indicator of higher performance.
Let’s be perfectly clear. Our safety performance has reached a plateau – and remains below best-in-class in our industry. Our statistics show it. We know it. What does this mean? Are we not trying hard enough, focusing hard enough, or haven’t we accepted that we have a problem? I think it is a mixture. All these aspects are probably part and parcel of the safety problem. The solution rests on willpower, behaviour and taking action.
In Shell, safety awareness rightly should be “first” nature, since we have been involved in hazardous, complex and challenging activities for more than a hundred years. Many of our people are technical experts, and know how to control the hazards of operating a platform, a refinery, a chemical plant, or a fuel depot and fuel transport. And yet, despite the experience and expertise, things can go wrong. And when things go wrong people can be hurt, or, even worse, lose their lives, which is very distressing for everyone.
And the world around us sees us as not safe enough.
In the past weeks, there have been media reports focusing on our safety performance in the North Sea, especially the Brent field. Part of the background is a debate around whether we, as a company, acted in sufficient depth and breadth on recommendations made in our own 1999 review of platform safety management. We genuinely believe we did. Nonetheless, there were two tragic deaths on the Brent Bravo in September 2003.
Although a one-billion-dollar improvement programme is underway in our North Sea operations, the debate in the media is likely to continue about whether we have done enough to ensure the technical integrity, safety standards and safety behaviour in that area of operations.
What can we learn from this? We see that it is hard to argue with perceptions, whether in the North Sea or elsewhere. It will take years to shift the view of those who are critical. It helps if we have consistent improvement in performance.
We owe this to ourselves and to all who are touched by our activities. My colleagues on the Executive Committee and I believe that good safety performance is one basis of the “contract” we have with ourselves, our families and friends, and with our neighbours.
So, I ask you to ask yourself – are you aware of what more you can do, and when you can and must intervene? And are you clear on how to do this before something goes wrong in operations around you? Have you been learning from past mistakes?
Recently someone asked me if anything keeps me awake at night – and in that case, what would this be? I’m fortunate in that I am able to rest when given an opportunity, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how we can make our Golden Rules come alive.
I’m sure you are familiar with them. But let me remind you. The Golden Rules are:
You and I:
* Comply with the law, policies and procedures
* Intervene on unsafe or non-compliant situations
* Respect our neighbours
These three simple rules are powerful. It is our commitment to build a company we can be proud of. So for me, it is about how we want to be. You and I have the expertise. We only need the will to act according to our ambition. Let’s get off this plateau together and improve our performance by making safety “job number 1”.
If you would like to send me your feedback, please click
Jeroen van der Veer
Group Chief Executive