Not just sightseeing with Shell

At 43, John Doddrell has been with the DTI for over 20 years. But until he joined Shell 18 months ago for a two-year secondment, his only experience of industry was student voluntary work. So when his Coal Directorate job began to wind down after privatisation, he leapt at the advert in the DTI’s internal […]

At 43, John Doddrell has been with the DTI for over 20 years. But until he joined Shell 18 months ago for a two-year secondment, his only experience of industry was student voluntary work.

So when his Coal Directorate job began to wind down after privatisation, he leapt at the advert in the DTI’s internal newsletter for someone to work for Shell’s Middle East operations. He didn’t get that job, but Shell put him in its corporate strategy department with the task of reviewing its global annual business planning and appraisal processes.

‘Our job was to ensure that the processes reflected best practice, so I went off to benchmark Shell against some of the world’s top firms such as Ford, ABB, Hewlett-Packard, even the US Army,’ says Doddrell.

Then, unexpectedly, he was asked to do a feasibility study into whether Shell should set up a financial services business. ‘It was fascinating,’ he says. ‘A team of us travelled the world setting up workshops with Shell staff to canvass ideas. Eventually, I put together a proposal, the board approved it and we’re now into a full feasibility study. It’s a live project, very exciting.’

Doddrell didn’t want to join Shell as just a sightseer, but he has certainly gained some valuable insights to take back to the DTI. ‘I’ve learned how a multinational operates and about the global environment it works in. I’ve picked up great skills in running workshops and the techniques of strategic business planning.’

In return, he believes Shell now has a useful contact in government, someone who can open doors. ‘I expect I’ll get the odd phone call back at the DTI, wanting help to navigate around the government machine.’

His boss at Shell, Japp van Klinken, vice-president of corporate strategy, is very pleased. ‘John’s made a tremendous contribution. He listens extremely well and very quickly picks up on what people need, distilling what he’s heard and treating everything with equal weight.

‘He can put himself in the other person’s position. We find it difficult at times to stand back and imagine being at the receiving end. John’s legacy will be to make us look at things through the eyes of the customer.’