Daily Telegraph (UK): Corporate glasnost may be just the remedy to bring Shell in from the cold: Investors: We're glad Shell came clean: “Mr van der Veer is a revelation for the Kremlinologists who are used to reading between the lines of Shell's normally turgid corporate utterances. It actually looks as though he means business. At the end of its annus horribilis, Shell appears to have found an executive who grasps the need to change the way things are done there.” (ShellNews.net) 17 Dec 04
A word in your Shell-like: the world's third-biggest oil company shows some strange signs of learning from its mistakes.
Stranger still, the lesson is coming from a Dutchman, who seems determined to bring the corporate equivalent of glasnost to this introverted institution. This Mikhail Gorbachov role is being played by Shell's former head of chemicals - a division he describes as Shell's "black sheep" - Jeroen van der Veer.
Like Gorby, van der Veer was parachuted into the top job at Shell after his predecessor Sir Philip Watts disappeared, along with a large slice of the company's proven oil and gas reserves. Also like Gorby, Van has been able to use the Shell shock from these revelations to shake up an organisation which has been weighed down by its own bureaucracy and inefficiency.
His first speech to the Shell suits in the summer produced a standing ovation and on Wednesday he gave them the second barrel. His theme, both times, was that the Civil Service mentality which pervades the whole organisation is out of date. The "gifted amateur" philosophy, which has so often made Shell look like a private sector version of the Foreign Office, doesn't work any more.
Mr van der Veer is a revelation for the Kremlinologists who are used to reading between the lines of Shell's normally turgid corporate utterances. It actually looks as though he means business. At the end of its annus horribilis, Shell appears to have found an executive who grasps the need to change the way things are done there.
The first big test will be the third audit of the reserves, which will take until the spring to complete. That such an obvious question should take so long to answer is mute testimony to the mess Shell had made for itself.
Mr van der Veer cannot have expected to have landed the top job, since he turns 60 at the end of 2007, the usual retirement age for the company, and would have been considered too old had Sir Philip not been pushed out. It will take at least a couple of years for his management revolution to hit the bottom line, but if he does have to go then, he could clean up on the lecture circuit.
Like Gorby, Van the Man has quite a story to tell.