Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, Master of Double Dutch: "No optionality that behaviours in Upstream are different from Downstream: We Live Apart Together.": Saturday 27 August 2005: 11.20 ET


Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, Master of Double Dutch


By Alfred Donovan


Have you noticed that Jeroen van der Veer, the new CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Plc has invented a new hybrid form of the English language? 


His opening address at the Business Week 2004 meeting of senior Shell managers held in Houston on 26 May 2004, provided an example of the jargon filled language he has developed. This often unintelligible babble could perhaps be the mythical lingo known as double-dutch. Examples were sprinkled throughout his speech, which to be fair, was meant for Shell internal use only. It was leaked almost before he finished speaking.


Mr Van der Veer also made a number of important admittances in his speech. The extracts below are not necessarily in the precise order used.




This is a speech for all of us: for you, for CMD, including myself.


Our strategy is simple: more upstream and profitable downstream.


In the upstream in the next 3-4 years we must build the foundations for strong future growth by prolonging our heartlands, by stepping up exploration spend and success; and by investing heavily to build new heartlands - especially based on gas; and by rebuilding our skills.


But if I look over the past years, I wonder, has-the balance between "Enterprise first" and 'Self first" moved too much to "Self first"?


Do we fix our problems by making a plan full of overstretch or unattainable targets? We have huge project overruns; we have had failures in our production forecasts; we have had the reserves issue. Many downstream assets do not have first quartile performance, but do we kid ourselves that we are first quartile people?


Or did it erode professionalism, corporate cohesion, "Enterprise first" thinking and loyalty?


No optionality that behaviours in Upstream are different from Downstream: We Live Apart Together.


Finally, what is the reward when we achieve this step change in our company behaviours? The prize is that we become a world-wide professional network with discipline that performs in a first quartile way in all aspects. This means we are all first quartile and it feels great to be part of it.


So, the change is from where we are now to being First Quartile with the right behaviours. That will be the basis on which we, together, can rebuild Shell's reputation and performance. And this meeting is a key step in doing just that.


We are going through a very difficult time in the history of Shell. We are a strong company but some serious mistakes were made. I realise this may have shaken your trust and confidence in your leaders. I'm very sorry about this.


Our integrity is questioned both internally and externally. I myself feel shocked, dismayed and ashamed at what has happened, and I imagine you must feel the same.


I hope we can all learn from this and together can take Shell, our company, forward. As leaders, we have a responsibility to leave here today with a clear vision of our way forward. So, we need straight talking, clear thinking and humility. We have more problems than just the reserves issue.


We will spend some time today on what has happened, and on our strategy, on concrete steps forward, as well as on our behaviours.




How anyone could leave the meeting with a clear understanding of anything after having to listen to such babble (incomprehensible claptrap) is beyond me. The man talks in riddles. My guess is that many left scratching their heads. It is true that I am 88 years old and perhaps a new business language has evolved without me being aware. Personally I prefer plain language.






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