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Posting on Shell Blog: Voser is right that something must be done…

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So, many people will go. This is inevitable since the numbers in the senior ranks grew out of all proportions. Since Herkstroter and Moody Stuart claimed in the mid 90s we were going to manage rather than do ourself this all started and now the ranks are swollen with self acclaimed managers who do not know what they are managing. So they are at the mercy of the consultants and service companies. And not only the numbers have swollen, there has been an inflation in the level of the jobs. Because if you have to manage rather than do, you are more important. Shell is now full of pointy haired bosses. And to top it all off: the number of senior jobs has increased, the levels of these jobs have increased but also the reward of the same levels has seen a dramatic increase in the more senior ranks. Couple that with the steep increase of especially american expatriates (the most expensive but also the most pliable ones) and it is obvious why costs have escalated beyond control. The corporate functions are now full of jobs with strange names that only shell insiders understand. A total disconnect with the rest of the outside world. (Example: Shell has no more reservoir engineers but ‘value creators’.) Drilling was the first with Drilling in the Nineties. Slogan: ‘When the rig goes, so goes the overhead’. The rigs came and went, the overhead only grew and the knowhow decined. Some 20 years ago the most senior driller was jgA. And good old Coen was on every brake in the world! Now there are umpteen jgB around who manage processes. After drilling, the rest followed. The results are evident.

The growth of corporate functions is publicly always frowned upon by the top but secretly they love it: more status, more jobgroup, less accountability because one can always blame someone else and the confusion grows exponentially. Ideal for politicians and people looking after self interest. The Parkinson principle demonstrated again! We see the same with politicians and civil servancies all over the world. They just grow whatever is stated by the people in charge.

Hofmeister was a master at remunerating the top. He tried first in a blunt way to increase the salaries of the CMD but was stopped by van Wachem and Jacobs. It maybe that van Wachem had already left as chairman but his views on this were known and still taken seriously. But Jacobs vetoed some salary increases (actually the only good thing he did). But Hofmeister knew how to operate the system. He increased the salaries of the subtop to the maximum and more. Injected willing americans. And soon he could go to the CMD and show that the minions were making more than the boys themselves and this would not do. Then the stampede for ever more money started seriously and we all know what happened on the reserve crisis, extremely poor project management, promises rather than performance. I hope someone will later write a book on all this corporate corruption. I have no other word for this. The top and their lackeys have been as bad as the worst examples amongst the bankers. Maybe good that Shell gets a banker at the top, it takes a thief to catch a thief?

So, Voser is right that something must be done. I hope he has the guts and stamina to transform Shell back to what it used to be in the successful years between the early 70s and the mid 90s. Could it be like fashion? If you wait long enough, it always returns? Somehow I have little hope because there are simply too many people with different self interests.

And the bad thing is : Shell definitely has the brains in the ranks and they can sort it if only they are let loose. They are merely very poorly led by people with the wrong norms and values. It really is that simple. If Voser has real guts, he will fire immediately after he is in charge a large number of people who were in charge and made a mess of things. Start with a clean slate and chose decent people. They exist. But the task to find them will be frustrated by all who have something to lose.

I will be watching it on the Donovan site. Thank you for providing this platform!

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1 Comment on “Posting on Shell Blog: Voser is right that something must be done…”

  1. #1 Paddy Briggs
    on May 30th, 2009 at 10:57

    Excellent Post by Guest1.

    It is indeed “corruption” and the irony is that it got far worse under Jeroen who was meant to be sweeping away the dishonesty and the self-first mindset that characterised the Watts years. I’m genuinely puzzled by this. I knew Jeroen reasonably well and found him a decent bloke – at least back in the late 1990s and into the new millennium. He seemed devoid of ego at that time and was an effective if modest communicator with staff at all levels. He lacked charisma and didn’t strike me as very original or creative – but he didn’t seem a phoney. What on earth happened under the van der Veer leadership that has got Shell into its present mess? Jeroen was paid an order of magnitude more than even quite recent CEOs like Moody-Stuart. He must surely have been aware of the public affront at the Watts/Reserves scandal. And given Jeroen’s Dutch Christian background and his (apparently) personal austerity and principal what went wrong? Anyone who worked for Shell over these years (I didn’t) throw any light on this contradiction?

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