In 2002, Norsk Hydro appointed senior manager Kjell Sunde to lead a virtuoso team to handle a looming investor relation crisis. Where did Sunde work?
Norsk Hydro ASA is a Norwegian aluminum and renewable energy company, headquartered in Oslo. Hydro is the fourth largest integrated aluminum company worldwide. It has operations in some 40 countries around the world and is active on all continents. The Norwegian state holds a 43.8 percent ownership interest in the company, which employs approximately 23,000 people. The company had a significant presence in the oil and gas industry until October 2007, when these operations were merged with rival Statoil to form StatoilHydro (in 2009 changed to Statoil). Emergency accident calls for virtuoso team
In 2002, Bloc 34, the potential site for a big oil find in Angola, turned out to be dry. Hydro had made a serious investment in the site. Somehow, senior management would have to convincingly explain the company's failure to the financial markets or Hydro's stock could plummet. The senior managers understood that this problem was too critical to leave to conventional approaches, but Hydro was certainly not a natural environment for a virtuoso team. Rich in heritage, unwieldy, and traditional, with a strong engineering culture and a decidedly Nordic consensus-driven approach to decisions, the company never singled out or recognized individual performers. In fact, most of Hydro's business activities were specialized and separated. Teamwork was satisfactory but unexceptional, and tension among employees was firmly discouraged. But given the emergency situation, Hydro needed the best professionals to complete the tasks in time. Hydro delegated Kjell Sunde to assemble a high-power group comprising the very best technical people across the company. Kjell is directly responsible to the CEO of Hydro. The team needed to review a massive stream of data to find out what had gone wrong in the original analysis of Bloc 34 and assure key stakeholders that the company would prevent such outcome from occurring again. They need to finish this as soon as possible and the senior management gave them six weeks. Team assembled, Conflicts come
Kjell assembled the team very soon. He received recommendations from head of different divisions and departments. All the team members are over 4 years experience in their field and the best among their colleagues. Oliver Bell, 45-year-old phD, and Johny Undeli, 38-year-old American, are both professionals in oilfield exploration and development. Oliver joint Hydro since he graduated from the best Norwegian University, University of Oslo. He was the most experienced professional in Hydro. Johny Undeli was working for another American oil extraction enterprise Mobil. Johny was elected as chief engineer in Mexican Bay Area when he was 36 and then joint Hydro one year later. Arvid Moss, 29 years old, was a professional in data mining and data analysis. Arvid got his phD in MIT when he was only 24. He was a genius in his field. Hilde Aasheim, 32-year-old PR manager, was the youngest manager in public relationship department. Svein Richard Brandtzag, 35-year-old layer, had experience in this field for more than 12 years. Ingrid Agerup, 34-year-old financial staff, was experienced in investor relation area for more than 8 years. She worked for Goldman Sachs before she joint Hydro. All the team members were among the best Sunde can choose in Hydro. The team was assembled in the third day after the accident broke out. All the team members flew to Oslo and had the first meeting in the meeting room on the 27th floor of Hydro’s headquarter. After all the team members entered the meeting room successively, a simple introduction was conducted among team members. But the atmosphere was weird. All the team members sat tightly on their chair and didn’t even take a glance on others when introducing them. The first meeting lasted over 4 hours. The CEO, Sir Terje Vareberg, briefly...
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