A Conversation From Paternalism to Performance: Leading Enterprise-Wide Change
Issue 3, 1997
Utilities & alternative energy, Strategy

An industry giant in the U.K., British Petroleum (BP) is the world's fourth largest oil company. BP extracts oil from around the world and sells its products in over 100 countries. In addition, it operates a large chemicals business and manages one of the largest solar opera–dons in the world. In the mid 1980s, due to declining oil prices and several failed exploration activities, BP came under intense pressure to cut its operating expenses. In 1992, after the first quarterly loss in the company's history, BP fired its Chairman and elevated Sir David Simon to that position. Widely regarded as a brilliant strategist, he led BP from its nadir to stellar operating performance in just four years. The challenge, at least in part, was leading the transformation from a highly paternalistic, inward–looking culture to a fiercely competitive, market–focused company. In May of this year, Sir David Simon was appointed Minister of Trade and Competitiveness for Europe and a member of the House of Lords, becoming The Lord Simon of Highbury. This conversation took place in September 1996, when he was still leading BP.