New Director, new structure: the first two matrices — a geological survey in transition

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From: Allen, P M. 2003. A geological survey in transition. British Geological Survey Occasional Publication No. 1. Keyworth:British Geological Survey.
The organisation of the Institute of Geological Sciences in September 1980. This structure underwent a reshaping when the districtoffices were opened in Aberystwyth and Newcastle in 1981. The Land Survey divisions were regrouped into Western England & Wales and Eastern England divisions. For thefirst time mapping in Wales came under the management of a single officer (R A B Bazley). By the end of 1981 there had been several staff changes: I P Stevenson was head of North-Western England; D B Smith moved to Newcastle to head the Northern England Unit; W A Read took over as head of East Anglia and South-east England and J H Hull was head of North Lowlands. Other changes were: A Whittaker, head of Deep Geology Unit; I G Hughes, head of Africa; S R C Malin, head of Geomagnetism Unit and C W A Browitt, head of Global Seismology Unit. B G N Page was given specialresponsibility for commissioned research overseas. The Mineral Intelligence and Mineral Statistics and Economics units were merged to form the Minerals Strategy and Economics Research Unit, under D Slater. Figure 2 (from Office Notice ON/14/80)
The organisation of the British Geological Survey as a matrix was implemented in December 1983. The structure here is as it was in April 1984. There was one Assistant Director post less than in the previous structure, accommodated by reducing the ADs managing the Land Survey from three to two. Figure 3 (from Office Notice ON/3/84)
The first reshaping of the matrix, April 1985. One of the two Deputy Director posts was lost; Programme Planning was reduced and the Land Survey research programmes were given geographical names. The Palaeontology Unit changed its name to Biostratigraphy. Figure 4 (from Office Notice 0N/5/85)
The Programmes Directorates were given names. The post of Deputy Director was lost and the rank of the Director’s post was down­graded. The Geology Directorate was lost and its component groups transferred to Information & Central Services. The Tectonic Evolution Group was dissolved.The second reshaping of the matrix, January 1986. By March 1988, D I J Mallick was in charge of the Highlands and Islands Programme, and Southern Scotland was merged with Northern Ireland, under D J Fettes, to create the first cross-border Land Survey unit. P M Allen had become head of Land Survey (South). Hydrocarbons (onshore) was dissolved. Marine Operations became Marine Geophysics and Offshore Services. Remote Sensing and Photogeology under B J Amos, was transferred out of Geophysics Directorate into Overseas. Hydrogeology, under W M Edmunds, moved into Geochemistry Directorate, now headed by J D Mather. Analytical Chemistry was merged with Mineral Resources and Applied Geochemistry. B G N Page headed Pacific and was also responsible for Marketing Development and External Affairs, and R Herbert was the new Overseas Hydrogeology Advisor. I R Basham was head of Minerals Science and Isotope Geology. More changes of managers came in May 1989. S Brown headed Hydrocarbons. C R Jones took over as head of Overseas Directorate and J D Bennett replaced him as head of Asia and Latin America. S S D Foster was head of Hydrogeology. Reservoir Rock Properties was disconnected from Engineering Geology and dropped, while M G Culshaw took charge of Engineering Geology. Figure 5
A new organisational structure, put in place on 1 December 1989. This produced a complete overhaul of the system. While the new organisation was presented as a sort of matrix it did not function as one. The number of Assistant Director posts was reduced to six. The once powerful Palaeontology Unit was now a component of Stratigraphy and Tectonics Group. Figure 6 (from Office Notice ON/24/89)

Chapter 9 New Director, new structure: the first two matrices[edit]

Every Director since, and including, Sir Kingsley Dunham has reorganised the BGS. Indeed there are very few years in the last thirty-five when some sort of adjustment has not been made to the structure. Though there are arguments both for and against regular institutional reorganisation, there seems to be an inevitability about new incumbents within the Director’s office feeling a compulsion to try to shape the organisation in their own image. Each of the major reorganisations has coincided with a maturing of thought by a new Director and, usually, there have been minor readjustments in between these.

Until Malcolm Brown’s reorganisation, the fundamental management unit in the Survey had been the unit, usually, but not always managed by a Senior Principal Scientific Officer (SPSO). Subsequently this management rank was renamed Grade 6 and is now Band 3. Several units were grouped together to form a division, each of which was managed by an Assistant Director (AD), who also served on the BGS Directorate, the name used for the Survey’s executive board or committee. Changes such as there had been before Malcolm Brown were generally fairly superficial. Geographically defined units, such as the components of the Land Survey, which carried out the Geological Mapping Programme, underwent boundary changes; units were merged and broken up, and the groupings of units that constituted divisions were frequently changed.

There were two types of unit: discipline based and programme based. In his retirement report, reproduced in Dennis Hackett’s history Our corporate history. Key events affecting the British Geological Survey, 1967–1998, Sir Kingsley Dunham described the Survey in the period up to 1976 as a matrix, in which these two types of unit comprised the two axes. Discipline-based units included Palaeontology, Petrology, Hydrogeology, Geochemistry and so on, while units like those comprising the Land Survey, Continental Shelf Programme, Overseas Geological Surveys, Bulk Mineral Assessment Programme etc. were programme based. The divisions themselves matched this classification reasonably well until 1975 in that only one of them contained units from both of the axes defined by Sir Kingsley. The anomaly was the Radioactive and Metalliferous Minerals Unit, which was included in the Geochemical Division alongside three clearly discipline-based units. The responsibilities of the ADs, however, were not in any way constrained to meet the requirements of a matrix management system. For example, three ADs were in charge of regional offices and had under their management the administrative, cartographic and other staff, who, strictly speaking, belonged to support or service entities that ought not to have been under their control in a matrix.The first deliberate break with Sir Kingsley’s logic came in 1976, when the Continental Shelf Division was formed by bringing together the two Continental Shelf units, which were programme based, and Marine Geophysics Unit, which hitherto had been regarded as discipline based.

The next year Austin Woodland, who replaced Sir Kingsley as Director, overhauled the structure, which, through progressive refinements in the years immediately after, completely broke away from his logic. He also made a significant change in approach to management when he devised what he called Task Forces. These were to be task orientated and, quite possibly, short lived. Two were created, Deep Geology in 1977 and Environmental Pollution in 1978. The concept was extremely short-lived. Both were converted to units soon after formation without the term Task Force ever being used in an official publication. They became headed by SPSOs and were immediately absorbed into the management structure.

Malcolm Brown followed Austin Woodland as Director in 1979. He had not served on the staff of the BGS at any stage in his career before becoming Director and he carried with him no baggage of past loyalties.

He inherited a very well established, unit-based structure at the lower management level and a mobile divisional structure above it. In practice, therefore, there should have been no organisational barriers to his reshaping the Survey to make it meet what he perceived to be changing future requirements. The difficulties he encountered from the very beginning were in persuading his Assistant Directors of the need for change. The structure, he could sort out fairly easily, but modifying the management system or changing attitudes to programme management were something different. The ADs were all long-serving Survey men and they were adept at manipulating the system for the benefit of their own division, managing their divisions as islands within the overall structure. The Land Survey, which operated a single programme divided into three geographical regions managed by ADs based in three different offices (Figure 2), shared few common standards other than the scale at which their staff did the mapping and published their maps. Even some of the symbols used on the maps were different in the three divisions. It was not uncommon for the Assistant Directors, as in the 1990s, to be referred to by irreverent staff as ‘robber barons’. Divisions were even called fiefdoms, informally.

By 1981, the Director had gained a sufficient understanding of how the Survey worked and what sort of future he saw for it to be ready to make the changes. He had spoken to all grades of staff, often using the IPCS union officers as sounding boards, and found little resistance among them to the sort of changes he had in mind. It was only the ADs who appeared to be resistant.

Files for the early 1980s contain references to several ideas that Malcolm Brown had for changes that he wanted to make, but which, in some cases, did not happen even in his lifetime. He seemed to be particularly concerned about the isolationism of the divisions. In theory, the Directorate was the forum within which the Assistant Directors reached agreement on matters that affected the whole of the Survey. For this to work there had to be mechanisms for putting cases together objectively, but, by common consent among them, there were no centralised mechanisms for deciding priorities on anything on an institute-wide basis. The main occasions for debate were the usually annual meetings of all the senior officers (the unit and divisional managers). Though this was an attractive, democratic process, the senior officers’ meetings had no executive authority and ADs need not and did not feel bound by their decisions.

One of the first major corporate issues to be raised in 1980, which illustrated the distributed nature of the management system, was with regard to strategic decision-making in computing. NERC policy was determined by NERC Computer Services (NCS). A request from the NCS for the BGS to tell them its priorities in computing met with difficulties because there was not an effective mechanism for determining them. The Computing Committee, established in 1968, had not taken upon itself this task and had to be reconvened to do it. Other issues came up later. At a Directorate meeting in April 1981, the Director declared that it was essential for the BGS to make a start on developing a centralised computer database, so that advantage could be taken of fast-evolving computer technology. In addition, he wanted to begin to develop computerised map production. He set up a working party, under the chairmanship of Innes Lumsden, who was then the Assistant Director in charge of the Scotland and Northern Ireland Land Survey Division in Edinburgh, to look into both. Significantly, within the management structure there was no manager within whose remit was the responsibility to take up such matters. There were also many problems regarding staff deployment. Each year, during programme planning, the aspirations of those Assistant Directors who wished to broaden the multidisciplinary range of their work programmes were often thwarted by ADs holding the required staff, but who had other priorities and demands for them. This, Malcolm Brown saw as one of the most serious of all issues. With the demise of the very big core commissions, the structure of the work programme was becoming fragmented, bringing with it a need for greater flexibility in staffing. He had already experienced the trauma of compulsory redeployment between offices in 1982 when, during a freeze in recruitment, staff were compulsorily transferred to the Hydrocarbons Unit in Edinburgh to work on the hydrocarbons contract with the Department of Energy. He had come to the conclusion that there were better ways of achieving mobility than that.

Though Malcolm Brown was clearly frustrated by all of this he does not seem to have taken a decision to address the problems with a single, decisive reorganisation. Instead, the process of restructuring the Survey seems to have been evolutionary. It began with the establishment of the Regional Geological Surveys. The idea for them emerged out of Scotland and, during 1981, was extensively debated by the Directorate. The traditional approach to the mapping programme was to treat each 1:50 000 sheet as an individual project, even when several of them covered common geology. The first time a regional approach was taken was with the establishment of the Southern Uplands Project, where Phil Stone, as project leader, was given the job of planning a mapping campaign for the Lower Palaeozoic rocks in the whole of the Southern Uplands, covering some thirty 1:10 000 sheets. To do this he built up a multidisciplinary team, following on practices developed in the Mineral Reconnaissance Programme, and devised the corridor mapping technique in which detailed mapping at the conventional scale of 1:10 000 was carried out in corridors across strike. The mapping in adjacent corridors was linked, over the intervening ground, by rapid-mapping techniques, including reconnaissance traverses and air-photo interpretations. It was an eminently, almost uniquely, suitable technique for the Southern Uplands, because of the structure of the rocks, but it was the regional approach as much as the rapid mapping that appealed to Malcolm Brown, who wanted to extend it throughout the Land Survey. The Regional Geological Surveys (RGSs) which emerged from this, were to be regional in scope — i.e. covering an area equivalent to that of a BGS 1:250 000 sheet, about 15 000 km2. They were to be research-driven, time-limited and multidisciplinary. Each RGS was to be a single project, and they were all meant to establish collaborative links with universities. Although a series of 1 :10 000 maps could be one of the products of an RGS this was not the main target output.

The Director focused his ideas for restructuring on them and gained approval to go ahead with the idea from Prep Group A and Council in June 1981. Six projects received Director’s approval and started in April 1982: the Lake District, the Southern Uplands, Snowdonia, East Anglia, the Worcester Basin and Volos, in Greece. The Director used £800 000 to fund them, which had been made available to him by the NERC as partial compensation for the £1.6 million reduction in commissioned research income for 1982/83. He set the projects up in a special programme that was to be managed by him to run alongside the Land Survey Mapping Programme. He regarded the RGSs as the focal point for the development of the future mapping programme in the BGS and stated in a paper to the Directorate in October 1981 that as commissioned research declined he expected the RGS Programme to absorb the released staff and grow. The Land Survey ADs did not like this at all. They made a bid for linkages to be established between the RGSs and the main mapping programme and were refused. Malcolm Brown pinned a lot on the success of the RGSs. They were to take the BGS back onto the research high ground, involve universities in a meaningful way and show how multidisciplinary research should be organised in the Survey. By the time the 1982–84 Visiting Group started, the RGSs were established and working.

With the process of restructuring now under way, he announced, also at the October 1981 Directorate meeting, that he would like to form a Geophysics Division, an Information Division and a Strategic Science Administration Group. In addition, he posed some questions for the ADs to think about before the next meeting: should the unit be the primary, stable base of the BGS structure and the division a more fluid arrangement? Was there an optimal size for a unit? Which of the existing units should be merged to create space for new ones and was there an optimal size for a division?

There is no indication in the records to show that these questions were ever actually addressed in the seventeen-month period to February 1983. (Malcolm Brown himself was away from the office because of ill health for three months from the end of November 1982). That there was some action, however, is not in doubt. Peter Sabine (as Acting Director) and Innes Lumsden acted on Malcolm Brown’s behalf, discussing various ideas with the NERC. Innes Lumsden had been brought down from Scotland, in January 1983, to became a second Deputy Director in order to establish a central Directorate presence in Keyworth and take charge of the move to Keyworth. By 7 February 1983 a proposal to move to a matrix management system had been drafted and was given broad approval by the Directorate. It was the Director’s view, expressed in papers at the time, that the current divisional structure was insufficiently flexible to respond to the changing circumstances brought about by fluctuating funding patterns and changes in the way in which science was to be carried out. His stated aim was to bring about changes that would put career management on an equal footing with programme management. To achieve this, a matrix management structure was considered to be necessary, but it is not at all clear whether the idea to move to matrix management was his or had been imposed on him by NERC HQ. Wherever the idea came from, an unspoken motive must have been that it would curb the power of the ADs.

The first intimation for staff that there was going to be a major shake-up of the management structure and system came at a full meeting of senior staff held at the Exhibition Road office in London later in February 1983, where its introduction was announced, somewhat sceptically, by Peter Sabine. After further discussions with NERC HQ and more refinements to the proposal, a summary plan was distributed to management and the unions, who broadly accepted it, in March. The Directorate was presented with a detailed discussion document to consider in May. Some of the questions posed in October 1981 resurfaced here, together with many that were to be heard in Directorate meetings again in 1999–2000. Matters such as whether laboratories should be run centrally or not, fears about the predicted increase in the cost of administering a matrix management system, how to carry out staff reporting, and conduct job appraisal reviews (JARs) were all debated. The potential for conflict between Programmes Directors and Chief Scientists (in charge of the two axes of the matrix) was raised, and whether the management of databases should be central or decentralised. The question whether the work programme should be unit-based or project-based and many others were debated and decided upon. By 1 December the new system was in place and details of how it was to operate had been issued in two Office Notices (11/83 and 21/83).

The new structure (Figure 3) brought with it a new vocabulary. The terms ‘Assistant Director’, ‘Division’, ‘Unit’ and ‘District Geologist’ all disappeared. The BGS was divided up into eight ‘Directorates’, replacing divisions, to be managed by four Programmes Directors, three Chief Scientists and the head of Information and Central Services. The tier of management below them comprised Programme Managers, who managed Programmes under the Programmes Directors, and Group Managers, who managed Research Groups under the Chief Scientists and the head of Information and Central Services Directorate. The Programme Planning and Research Marketing Group came under the Deputy Director, by this time reduced to one post because of Peter Sabine’s retirement.

The way in which the responsibilities of the eight directorate heads (reduced from nine Assistant Directors) were defined was quite different from those of the ADs they replaced. All were required to be concerned with strengthening inter-directorate developments and broad-ranging institute strategies, but the Chief Scientists were given a different set of responsibilities from Programmes Directors. The latter were expected to concentrate on managing their programmes, within which projects were expected to be multidisciplinary and time limited. These programmes were deliberately not named, but given labels A, B, C and D. These consisted, respectively, of the Land Survey of the area north of a line linking the Ribble and Tees; the Land Survey south of this line; Continental Shelf and Energy Resources; and Overseas Surveys. The Chief Scientists, although they headed science directorates containing research programmes, were to provide leadership in their science and be responsible for the maintenance of scientific manpower quality. This included career management, recruitment, training and the deployment to and between projects and programmes. They were also to take charge of broadening staff expertise through links with universities, industry and other relevant research organisations and they were given responsibility for managing basic research and certain specialised surveys.

The third post was the head of Information and Central Services, a directorate that evolved from the Director’s idea in 1981 to create an Information Division. His programmes were meant to be institute-wide, and he was expected to develop co-operative links and ventures across the Survey in information handling. This made the directorate corporate (like Administration) but it was made up of programmes like the programmes directorates.

Each of the heads of directorate was given some additional responsibilities. The Chief Geophysicist was responsible for computing; the two Programmes Directors for onshore surveys had responsibility between them for industrial minerals and Quaternary geology; the heads of Programmes Directorates C and D covered, respectively, energy resources, and metalliferous mineral resources and exploration. Lastly, there was to be a Programme Planning and Research Marketing Group outside the matrix, under the management of the Deputy Director.

The new arrangements were criticised immediately they were announced in the November Office Notice, and some changes were initiated soon after publication so that the structure presented in it is not actually the same as the one illustrated in the organisational chart dated July 1984. Even the unions, having agreed with it in principle in March 1983, were intensely critical a year later. They presented their critique in a paper for the Director, which he described, in a note in the margin, as ‘a dreadful little paper …’ These criticisms, however, though significant, were already too late.

Deviations from the ideal matrix structure had begun to take place even before it was implemented. Others immediately followed, so that the new system soon became undermined and did not operate fully as matrix management. There were, however, two distinct benefits from the new arrangements, which lasted until Peter Cook reorganised the management structure in 1991. These were in programme planning and staff deployment. After the early demise of the Programme Planning Group, both became the responsibility of the three Chief Scientists operating as a sub-committee of the Directorate.

For the first time, the Survey’s work programme was regarded as a single entity. Each year, project leaders had to make a bid for staff and resources either for an on-going project or to pursue a new idea. Each project proposal was scrutinised by the three Chief Scientists independently of each other and given a ranking. They then met to agree the rankings and the level of resources that should be allocated to each project. Only highly ranked projects were funded. Progress reports were required on each project. This was a revolutionary procedure and it led to a serious rationalisation of the programme. Hundreds of small, barely functioning projects were culled and some big projects were drastically revised when the Chief Scientists thought that they showed evidence of failing.

The theory about staff deployment was that on 31 March each year the current work programme ended and all staff became available for redeployment by the Chief Scientists. Thus, it was the Chief Scientists who built project teams, as far as possible using objective criteria to make their decisions about each individual deployed. The outcome of their efforts was a work programme that was better balanced than it ever had been. It was leaner and it was prioritised according to centrally decided criteria. Projects were forced to end when their useful life was over and could not, as before, drag on for ever at a notional level. There was, also, fairness in the allocation of staff to projects.

In other respects the new system did not succeed. It is clear from all contemporary accounts that most of the senior management either did not want it or were lukewarm about it. In the face of this sort of opposition the new system had to be robust and well planned and introduced forcefully, if necessary. There is no evidence that any of these applied. As early as May 1983, when the Directorate discussed the detailed proposal, important issues were raised and either left unresolved or resolved in a way that was contrary to the needs of a matrix. For example, the potential for conflict between the Chief Scientists and Programmes Directors was raised and left with the words, ‘It was felt that with the right cooperation the new matrix will prove workable’. The lack of co-operation between the old ADs was one of the reasons why Malcolm Brown felt the need to change to a radical new system in the first place. Not to face up to this issue at this stage was almost fatal.

Also at that meeting, Malcolm Brown lost his chance to create a centralised geoscientific database. Again, this had been one of his ambitions, but when it was discussed, Richard Haworth, the Chief Geophysicist, fresh from the Canadian Geological Survey, objected to it. The agreement of the meeting was that, ‘individual design and data integrity should remain with the Chief Scientists. It was agreed that a centralised view on databases should be resisted’. It may well have been that difficulties being experienced with the attempts by the NERC to control computing from the centre influenced thinking on the day, but it may also have been a result of the ADs resisting the loss of some of their powers. The Chief Geochemist and Chief Geophysicist, whose staff were almost entirely located within their own directorates, never came together to discuss database development and so went their own ways. The third Chief Scientist, the Chief Geologist, did nothing at all. The new Information and Central Services Directorate, while it was meant to be institute-wide in its function, took control of the old Land Survey records and the responsibility for developing digital databases from them, but never managed to penetrate geochemistry or geophysics. Database development, at that time, had at least three foci, but in the 1990s these multiplied as individual groups took their own initiatives.

Even with hindsight, it is difficult to make objective judgements about the outcome of this course of events. The position in 1997, when a radical reorganisation was needed to deal with the fragmented data management and the lack of both corporate standards and centrally managed index-level databases, was not necessarily worse than if the Survey had had to unscramble a centralised system based on, what then would have been archaic technology and thinking. Few now would say that Malcolm Brown’s intention was wrong, but many might say that his timing was not right.

Two other critical features of the matrix were distorted at an early stage. One was the definition of the basic building block of the matrix. The contenders, discussed at the meeting in May 1983, were the project and the unit. The unit won, which meant that what subsequently came to be called Research Groups and Programmes, instead of being freshly built as clusters of projects, were based on the old units and carried with them the baggage of units, which managers took great care not to lose.

The second was the Director’s attempt to free directorates and programmes from the constraints of geographical boundaries. The new Land Survey programmes had been defined originally on a tectonic and stratigraphical basis: thus the old South-west England field unit had its geographical boundaries changed and became the Armorica Research Programme (Figure 3). Another was the Mesozoic and Tertiary Programme, which replaced the East Anglia and Southeast England Unit: a third the Basement and Lower Palaeozoic Programme, which, with modified geographical boundaries, replaced the South Wales and the Welsh Marches Unit. There were several others. They lasted little more than a year before being replaced by research programmes that differed hardly at all from the old field units. The reasons for the reversal stemmed from the Land Survey’s responsibility for dealing with enquiries, which was done regionally, for managing records by region and for having District Geologists who knew every detail of their districts. An alternative arrangement would have been to transfer these first two tasks and responsibilities fully to the new Information and Central Services Directorate, but this was not done.

By January 1986, by which time Innes Lumsden had become Director, the programmes directorates had been given names (Figure 4, Figure 5). Programmes Directorate A was called Land Survey (North), Programmes Directorate B was Land Survey (South), while Hydrocarbons and Marine Surveys and Overseas Surveys replaced programmes C and D respectively.

The centralised Programme Planning and Research Marketing Group, with an SPSO in charge, fell apart quite quickly. The Chairman of NERC had not agreed that they should be together in the first place. His view was that marketing, which was taken out of the group and put into the Information and Central Services Directorate, should be strengthened and led by an SPSO. The Programme Planning Group lost its SPSO head and the function became, eventually, the sole province of the three Chief Scientists. Again, it is evident that those of the old ADs, who were to become Programmes Directors, very much resented not having control over their own programme development. This remained so until the dying days of the system. There was, however, too little distinction between the jobs of the Programmes Directors and those of the Chief Scientists. Both had charge of large programmes. Indeed, the programme structure of 1984 bore many similarities to the ‘matrix’ described by Sir Kingsley Dunham in 1976. The new directorates were his divisions by another name. When Wyndham Evans retired as head of Programmes Directorate B (PD-B) in 1986 he was replaced by Gordon Smith, who brought with him to PD-B the responsibilities of the Chief Geologist. There was then complete fusion of functions along the two matrix axes and their distinction was lost. The research groups that Gordon Smith had managed in his Geology Directorate were transferred into Information and Central Services, and the Geology Directorate disappeared.

A fairly serious weakness in the new system related to the way in which the Chief Scientists were able to deal with staff career development. The three elements to this were the Annual Confidential Report (ACR), Job Appraisal Reviews (JAR) and the career interview.

Staff reporting was done on an annual basis. For each member of staff an ACR was prepared in which there was a commentary on the individual’s performance during the year. A reporting officer, usually the person with direct management responsibility for the individual, had the job of writing the initial report. The next manger up in the hierarchy acted as a countersigning officer, commenting on that report. The role of the Assistant Director was to ensure common reporting standards across his division. In the new system, the Chief Geochemist and Chief Geophysicist had the advantage of overseeing the careers of staff who were almost all in their own directorates. They carried on with the same responsibilities as before. The Chief Geologist’s responsibility, however, was for staff spread over five directorates. He had no power to overrule line managers within those directorates. He came in as third signatory for staff in the directorate he managed, but was fourth signatory on all the others and was not allowed to coordinate the reporting below him where it was cross-directorate. Similarly, the Chief Geologist was not involved in Job Appraisal Reviews for staff outside his directorate and he had minimal influence over training. The Chief Scientists did carry out career interviews, however, and they spoke about all the staff in their discipline at the Career Management Panel meetings, held every autumn.

There were many lesser issues that added to the list of potential failings in the new system, but none of them would have mattered much, or even have existed, if Malcolm Brown’s senior managers had been behind him in the reorganisation. The position he was in was summarised well in the union statement that Malcolm Brown described as a dreadful little paper:

The previous divisional structure was said to have encouraged empire building by divisional and unit heads, and rigid demarcation of work between divisions resulting in poor interdivisional communication. It discouraged interdisciplinary science and the freedom of staff to vary their careers in a way that could be mutually beneficial both to themselves and to BGS. So far management seem to have failed to communicate the rationale for the new structure to staff. This is shown by the commonly voiced criticism that the restructuring appears to have been applied from the wrong end, i.e. from the top downwards. Such critics say that the staff groupings dictated by the work should have been identified first and then provided with a managerial structure that would best promote the execution of that work. It is also clear that previous inflexibility was probably less due to the structure than to the inflexible attitudes of certain managers, and until these retire or are transferred, the desired changes will not take place.

The matrix management structure was formally demolished in 1991. There were several adjustments made to it before then, but nothing major happened until Geoff Larminie took office as Director in 1987. For the most part, his time was filled with more important things than tinkering with the management structure, but he did develop concerns about the directorate structure he had inherited. The one that bothered him most was the managerial separation of the land-based and offshore survey programmes. When he was required by NERC HQ to lose one of the Grade 5 posts he decided to restructure, which he did with two main themes in mind. One was to integrate land and marine surveys; the other was to bring under common management those research groups and programmes that had a common survey interest. Thus, the three Programmes Directorates A, B and C were fused (Figure 6). Hydrocarbons was taken out and put into the Geophysics and Hydrocarbons Directorate; the rest were divided into two and put into Land and Marine North and Land and Marine South. Except for Hydrogeology, which went into the Geochemistry and Hydrogeology Directorate, the research groups that had found their way into the Information and Central Services Directorate were moved into Land and Marine Surveys South. The Deep Geology Research Group, which was transferred from the Geophysics Directorate, was also put into Land and Marine Surveys South, being merged with two other groups, Biostratigraphy and Stratigraphy & Sedimentology. Thus, engineering geology, biostratigraphy, sedimentology, deep geology and geological mapping all came under common management for the first time ever. This was the first step taken towards integrating those activities that had a bearing on the survey and understanding of the three-dimensional crust beneath land and sea. The only group that had been left out of this new arrangement, the inclusion of which would have completed the transformation, was Regional Geophysics, but to have removed that from the Geophysics Directorate would have made this directorate very small and out of balance with respect to the other directorates.

This new structure came into effect on 1 December 1989. It was basically an operational structure that took into account scientific and commercial objectives. It sought to deal with the problems of inflexibility in staff deployment which inhibited the creation of multidisciplinary teams, by bringing together under common directorate heads as many as possible of those science disciplines that were required to work together in pursuit of the directorate’s scientific and operational objectives. These included the production of land-use maps for planners, understanding the three-dimensional crustal structure for resource studies and onshore/offshore matters, particularly in relation to the coastal zone. In doing this it came close to meeting the rejected first recommendations by the 1988 Strategic Plan Working Group on Core Programme structure. As a solution to some of the problems that beset Malcolm Brown this structure might have worked, but it lasted little over a year and was not properly tested.