This government and the previous government have very specific reasons for employing people like John Browne. Here is Francis Maude (pictured above) on why the coalition government wants Lord Browne’s help:
“His experience will be a real benefit in our drive to make Whitehall work in a more businesslike manner and I am looking forward to working with him to implement our vital reform programme.”
Francis Maude has also created an ‘efficiency unit’ within the Cabinet Office (staffed by a thousand people but let’s not dwell on that). More here: UK government to adopt BP business model
So what it usually comes down to is that governments want to be more business-like, or more efficient. But is efficiency really how Lord Browne made BP such a ‘success’? We’ve already seen that he cut costs, including on pesky things like the safety of oil rigs, but how else did he make BP (and himself) so rich? It wasn’t, arguably, anything to do with improving business processes, improving manufacturing processes, or anything else that would spring to mind when you talk of ‘efficiency’. Rather, he bought lots of other companies and turned BP into a super-sized corporation, merging with Amoco, then taking over Arco and Castrol.
So the government that is campaigning to make government smaller is asking for efficiency tips from someone who made money by, er, making his organisation bigger. If we want more about Lord Browne’s efficiency we could look to Tony Hayward, current CEO of BP, quoted in this article:
BP’s explorers excel in finding oil in the most difficult environments, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. That triumph helped John Browne – the so-called Sun King – transform a dying corporation in the early 1990s into the world’s second-biggest oil company. But in the process, Browne ripped out the very skills that would have prevented the present disaster, or at least would have made the corporation more adept at finding the cure.
Browne’s penny-pinching, Hayward admitted after becoming chief executive, compounded by “dreadful” bureaucracy and inefficiency, had impaired the company’s performance.
. So, um, what is it Lord Browne is doing for us again? Making government more like his BP apparently. More on that here.