JUST as Gordon Brown is quietly ditching several of his predecessor's policies so Tony Hayward, the new chief executive of BP, is off-loading several of the policies of his predecessor Lord Browne. In a statement on BP's rather disappointing second quarter results Mr Hayward said that the company could be more efficient, leaner and fitter by ensuring we have a common and consistent way of doing things, by reducing out overheads and doing a better job of managing thirdparty spend. He carefully avoided any direct criticism of Lord Browne, as Mr Brown does of Tony Blair, but he made clear that he was engaged on an agenda for change. Ah yes, change is certainly the current in-word for captains of industry as well as prime ministers.
Lord Browne's decline and fall has been spectacular. Only two years ago shareholders were arguing that BP's 60-year retirement rule should not apply to the man who had made the company into a world oil giant and, some thought, was irreplaceable. A sequence of distant disasters in Texas and Alaska led to the first doubts about Lord Browne's managerial competence and these were compounded by personal difficulties.
Now Tony Hayward plans to rein in divisional heads who have had a high degree of operational independence in the past; and there is to be a 25 per cent staff reduction at BP's London head office involving redeployment from leafy St James Square to less comfortable field assignments.