If the US Department of Justice does push its accusations of gross negligence against BP to trial, disinterested observers can look forward to a detailed exploration of the oil company’s culture and management.
As I wrote in my first column as FT management editor in 2011, the report issued by Barack Obama’s national commission into the Deepwater Horizon disaster reads like a guide to the challenges of implementing cultural change, fighting complacency, running a collaborative “extended enterprise”, and managing risk. BP’s own 2010 accident investigation report, based on an investigation by Mark Bly, the group’s head of safety and operations, took a far narrower view. There are 69 references to culture in the national commission report, for instance; there are none in BP’s, and the only discussion of management is focused on specific operational issues. Read more
Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to reintroduce attendants to the forecourts of Britain’s petrol stations is bothering me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of better service, but, as everyone knows, such improvements – particularly the personal “shall I check your tyre pressures, madam?” service promised by Shell – cost money. I’ll drink a litre of unleaded if the Shell plan isn’t really based on selling more stuff. Read more
Jonathon Porritt, the environmental campaigner, believes “almost everybody in [your] organisation knows almost nothing about energy”.
So how should companies go about instilling the necessary energy awareness and zeal for change in employees – and, ultimately, suppliers and customers?
Mr Porritt – speaking during a panel I chaired on Wednesday at the Green Corporate Energy conference in London – laid out two paths: “command and control” or “we’re all in this together”. If you follow the first path, you place your faith in technology to regulate corporate energy use. Follow the second and you rely on users’ personal engagement and sense of responsibility. Read more
The latest tussle between BP and the billionaire oligarchs with whom it owns BP-TNK, its Russian oil joint venture – this time over BP’s wish finally to sell out – reminds me of the controversial way in which it started.
I wrote a column in 2003 arguing that, despite all of the risks of becoming partners with AAR in Russia, BP probably ought to do it. The rewards were worth the obvious prospect of being double-crossed. Read more
Sometimes the most obvious and tempting strategy is the stupidest. That applies to Argentina’s decision to seize a majority share in YPF, its biggest oil company, from Repsol, the Spanish energy group.
If mergers of equals are risky and hostile takeovers riskier, where does expropriation rank on the scale of management disruption?
Pretty high, I would guess. So, a day after Argentinian government officials walked into YPF’s headquarters with a list of senior Spanish executives they wanted to expel and an order to renationalise most of Repsol’s majority stake, I feel for the oil company’s staff. Read more
“Petrobras is a very successful company, completely male-dominated,” Maria das Graças Silva Foster told the FT’s Women at the Top Conference in November 2011. “But things are changing and it’s just question of time.”
A question of just two months, in fact. On Monday, the Brazilian company’s gas and energy director was named as the next chief executive of, in the FT’s words, “arguably Latin America’s most important company”.
Her promotion will also make her, by a long shot, the most prominent businesswoman in Latin America, and a symbol of the diversity policy of Brazil’s first woman president Dilma Rousseff – who used to chair Petrobras and is said to be close to Ms Graças Foster. The president appears to be lining up another Brazilian businesswoman - Luiza Helena Trajano Inácio Rodrigues, who heads the retailer Magazine Luiza – to become a minister for small business. But the number of top female CEOs in Brazil still looks low compared with, say, India or China. Read more