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Financial Times: Front Page Story: ‘Pipeliners All!’ memo urges Shell’s workers to bounce off the bottom

By Ed Crooks
Published: June 6 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 6 2007 03:00

As if laying pipelines across Sakhalin Island, notoriously described by the writer Anton Chekhov as “hell”, were not tough enough, the engineers battling the elements off Russia’s far east coast have to put up with their boss’s motivational memorandums.

In a leaked e-mail, enticingly addressed to “Pipeliners All!”, David Greer, the deputy chief executive officer of Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, the consortium that has run Royal Dutch Shell’s Sakhalin 2 project, urges his staff to “Lead me, Follow me or Get out of my way”.

Sakhalin 2 has had a troubled history of rising costs and environmental concerns and, last December, Shell was forced to cede control of the project to Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas company.

The project is due to deliver its first shipments of liquefied natural gas by the second half of next year.

Mr Greer’s e-mail, dated April 18, begins with a cheery assurance to his team that he has “total faith in you and our collective ability to complete the task ahead of us”.

Then the mood darkens. In comments and punctuation that suggest inspiration from the Financial Times’s own Martin Lukes, Mr Greer says he has witnessed “comments and body language” that suggest a group that “doesn’t want to fight and lacks confidence in its own ability”.

“Surely, this is not the case? Pipeliners and engineers, love to fight and win, traditionally. All real engineers love the sting and clash of challenge.”

Then, after an appeal to the pride of “real frontier professionals”, comes the inspirational part: “When every one of you, were kids, I am sure that you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league football players. Personally, I like most others love winning. I despise cowards and play to win all of the time. This is what I expect of each and every one of you going forward this year. Nothing less.

“Strive to be proud and confident in yourselves, be proud of your tremendous pipeline achievements to date and lift up your level of personal and team energy to show everyone that you are a winning team capable to achieving this year’s goals. If you can crack this angle, I am very confident you can crack the job, with ease.

“So Lead me, Follow me or Get out of my way; Success is how we bounce when we are on the bottom.”

A Shell spokesman confirmed the e-mail was genuine but would not comment further on it.

Article also published by the FT under the headline:  Shell’s team in ‘hell’ feels the heat

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One Comment

  1. el says:

    Why cut and paste memo don’t work based on my own management’s
    The Statement “Lead, Follow, Or Get Out of the Way” was issued by
    The Rev. Harvard Stephens in sepetember 2000 ( Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Speaker)
    the original statement was ” The work of the kingdom of God is this serious, and everyone who is baptized into Christ has to learn to lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
    Rev. Harvard Stephens clarifies what he means “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a professional theologian….. he could have stayed safely in New York ….., but he chose a path of leadership that took him home to Germany where he became a courageous leader of the church’s resistance”
    This drive me to the point : Management is leading by example in the muddy field, not far away.

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