Sakhalin Pep Talk From 'Old Blood and Guts'
By Max Delany, Moscow Times 9/6/07
Jun 11, 2007 - 9:47:05 AM
leaked e-mail from a top Sakhalin Energy executive, exhorting his pipeline
engineers in the style of U.S. General George Patton, has prompted one
international newspaper to ask its readers, "Is this the worst
motivational memo ever?"
memo, deputy CEO David Greer borrows heavily from Patton, lifting whole
passages of a bloodcurdling speech delivered by the gung-ho World War II
general to his troops on the eve of D-Day, in 1944.
me, Follow me or Get out of my way," Greer writes to his staff in a phrase
lifted straight from Patton's speech.
the e-mail then says, "is how we bounce when we are on the bottom."
memo, which was leaked to an anti-Shell web site, Royaldutchshellplc.com,
appears to show the pressure that he and his fellow managers have been under,
as it talks of "the risk of becoming a team that doesn't want to fight and
lacks confidence in its own ability."
December, Shell and its Japanese partners ceded majority control of the $20
billion Sakhalin-2 project to Gazprom after a sustained 1 1/2- year campaign of
state pressure over purported environmental violations.
that pressure, workers on the remote project also face the potentially
demoralizing combination of harsh weather conditions, isolation and a lack of
everyone of you were kids, I am sure that you all admired the champion marble player,
the fastest runner, the big league football players," Greer writes,
borrowing another line from Patton, who was known by the nickname "Old
Blood and Guts."
I, like most others, love winning. I despise cowards and play to win all of the
time," Greer continued.
perhaps, Greer left out some of the gorier parts of Patton's expletive-laden
speech, in which he exhorted the U.S. 3rd Army to kill the enemy with the
phrases: "twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him,"
"rip them up the belly" and "shoot them in the guts."
achieved great successes after the D-Day invasion of France by copying the
Germans' blitzkrieg tactics. His charge toward Berlin came to an abrupt halt,
however, when his tanks ran out of gas.
substituting "pipeliners and engineers" for Patton's "American
he-men" heroes, however, Greer's memo reads more like a cross with a pep
talk by David Brent, the haplessly self-deluding boss from the BBC's television
comedy show "The Office."
18, shortly after Gazprom formally took control of the project, the memo
suggests that morale among staff may be ebbing.
opening with a jaunty "Pipeliners All!" Greer quickly moves to
confront any negative vibes among his staff.
the outset, I want to assure you that despite the mutterings on the day and the
challenges ahead, I have total faith in you and our collective ability to
complete the task ahead," he says.
some of the comments and body language witnessed at the Bi-annual Challenge
meeting do suggest that [the phase-2 development project] is running the risk
of becoming a team that doesn't want to fight and lacks confidence in its own
ability," the message says.
calls and e-mails to Greer for comment this week went unanswered.
spokesman for Sakhalin Energy confirmed that the e-mail was genuine, but
declined to comment on Greer's management style and said that bosses should be
judged on their results.
people may mock it, some may like it and some dislike it but you can't really
judge a manager on one e-mail," Ivan Chernakhovsky said. "Motivating
in general is just good practice."
the company did not know who had leaked the e-mail, Chernakhovsky said.
"It is regrettable that certain individuals anonymously put this on a
public web site," he said.
Sakhalin-based employee who received Greer's e-mail refused to comment on staff
reaction when contacted by telephone. Other employees either said they had not
seen the e-mail or refused to comment.
calls to the company's headquarters in Sakhalin went unanswered.
environmental official who led the charge against Shell's management of
Sakhalin-2, Oleg Mitvol, said Greer's bombastic memo had made him laugh. It was
very much in Sakhalin Energy's style and highlighted the cause of the project's
troubles, Mitvol said.
thought that the problems with the pipeline on Sakhalin were all because of me,
but now from this text you can see that the problems have to do with Sakhalin
Energy and some of their managers," Mitvol said by telephone Friday.
"Do they think that they're starring in a film or something?"
posted on the Financial Times' Internet forum ranged from mocking to
supportive, with one post chiding the newspaper for its "gleeful,
comments praised Greer for his leadership qualities in a vein that even Patton
might have been proud of.
having worked for the company can attest to how much of a good leader he
is," wrote one person who posted a comment under the name Mary Ann B.
of those larger-than-life characters. Boundless energy, charismatic, with a
firm hand, brutally frank, highly committed and puts the people's welfare
first. ... People loved him, people hated him. But even those who hated him
could not deny he was the best man for the job," the comment said.
where cake and certificates are more traditional motivational tools than
bombastic e-mails, management consultants said Western-style techniques were becoming
more common, even if Greer's memo had gone a little over the top.
course there is a difference in culture if you talk about personal lives, but
in business there are generally accepted managerial standards and
techniques," said Allan Gamborg, a Moscow-based management consultant.
"Maybe sometimes there is more of a need here for such things, but the
buttons you want to push are the same."
at a recent seminar in Moscow to leading Russian businessmen, former General
Electric CEO Jack Welch ridiculed the common Russian practice of handing out
certificates in attempt to motivate staff.
hate certificates. I hate plaques. I hate those things," said Welch.
"I like money. That is the best motivator, along with job content."
Source: Ocnus.net 2007