Sündenbock

“Sins goat,” i.e. scapegoat.

08 Mar 2013: In what may be an unusual choice for a sacrificial pawn, peasant or farmer, the controversial German executive Hartmut Mehdorn was named the new manager of the struggling Berlin-Brandenburg airport construction project. At his last gig, he was C.E.O. of Germany’s second-largest airline after Lufthansa but left suddenly, though not before suing the Berlin-Brandenburg airport construction project. In his gig before that he managed Deutsche Bahn for years and years (he finally had to leave that company in 2009 after they were found to be spying on their employees). Mr. Mehdorn is considered undiplomatic by people who don’t like him and a cost cutter by those who do. He doesn’t always manage to cut costs: as Green party members like to point out, another thing Mr. Mehdorn did at Deutsche Bahn was spend a decade pushing the unpopular and also possibly impossibly expensive Stuttgart 21 underground train station expansion project.

Former Frankfurt airport C.E.O. and engineer Wilhelm Bender was supposed to take over the beleaguered Berlin airport construction project and was rumored to have negotiated a per diem of 2500 or 4000 euros, but withdrew his name on 4 Mar 2013, citing contractual disagreements and his concerns about confidentiality.

Update on 21 Oct 2013: Still not finished, the new Berlin airport’s construction costs have been adjusted upward again, now estimated at about 5 billion euros (which would actually be a downward adjustment). No deadline for finishing is apparent. Siemens recently signed a contract to deliver a control system for the new smoke removal system that included 18 months just for programming the software.

Update on 24 Oct 2013: Spiegel.de provided some context on the mutual history of Hartmut Mehdorn and Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit (S.P.D.). Years after his 2009 departure from German Rail, Spiegel wrote, Berliners still suffered from Mr. Mehdorn’s misplaced I.P.O.-preparedness austerity measures as their poorly maintained trains, tracks and other rail equipment struggle to keep running in winter weather. In 2005, Mr. Wowereit apparently forced Mr. Mehdorn to build Deutsche Bahn headquarters in the capital city instead of in Hamburg where Mr. Mehdorn would have had more control, e.g. over port shipping.

The current airport construction site’s technology manager, engineer Horst Amann, who after fighting with Mr. Mehdorn since March 2013 was transferred to head the airport’s utilities subsidiary on 01 Nov 2013, criticized Mr. Mehdorn’s plan to open the new airport in stages, starting with perhaps 10 flights a day to perhaps test things. Mr. Amann said this is purely cosmetic and would interfere with construction.

Update on 20 Feb 2014: Hartmut Mehdorn announced in a letter to employees that the planned partial start of the new Berlin airport this summer will not be feasible.

Update on 28 Feb 2014: There still aren’t PLANS for the airport. One reason this became such a colossal sinkhole is because they started building before they finished designing all the systems. Siemens said it could go ahead and start construction of replacement system/s (not sure which) if only plans were available. Hartmut Mehdorn has already had a falling-out with the new technical manager who replaced Horst Amann; she quit. Pirate Party member Martin Delius said management board chief Hartmut Mehdorn needs a technical manager he can work with, who is allowed some autonomy and who is supported by the supervisory board.

Update on 04 Mar 2014: An analysis of Hartmut Mehdorn’s first year turning the Berlin airport construction project around said, “Other people are always responsible” for the problems that occur on Mr. Mehdorn’s watch.

Update on 11 Apr 2014: The Berlin airport construction project’s supervisory board [Aufsichtsrat] met today. Hartmut Mehdorn appeared accompanied by a lawyer, who was he said there to instruct the supervisory board about the responsibilities and rights of a board such as itself. “Mehdorn feels he has been pushed around. The supervisory board felt it has been inadequately informed.” ZDF heute journal’s report on the meeting went on to mention that a top airport employee, a construction specialist, sent a 21-page letter to the supervisory board to alert them that, in his opinion,

English translation German original
“[cut off] …in the context of the stagnating progress in the BER project the mood is worsening, including within the FBB company, and would draw your attention to ongoing still-existing and even increasing deficits in company culture, characterized by resistance to advice, increasing hierarchization, resignation and criticismlessness. In internal atmospheres as well, the decision-making process appears at times to be based on gut feelings and mercurial, even for strategic questions. Bad decisions in this atmosphere are not revised but are pushed through ‘decisively’ as evidence of leadership strength. The actions taken awaken the impression that at the moment it’s being determined by operative actionism/’immediatism’ without appropriate internal coordination and expertise, as well as by uncoordinated assignment of internal tasks. This situation continues to be [cut off] by a lack of personnel consequences…” “[cut off] im Kontext des stagnierenden BER-Projektfortschritts auch innerhalb der FBB die Stimmungslage weiter verschlechtert und verweist auf weiter bestehende und sogar zunehmende Defizite in der Unternehmenskultur, gekennzeichnet durch Beratungsresistenz, verstärkte Hierarchisierung, Resignation und Kritiklosigkeit. Auch in der Innenwahrnehmung erscheint die Entscheidungsfindung zuweilen auf Bauchgefühl beruhend und sprunghaft, selbst bei strategischen Fragen, Fehlentscheidungen werden nach dieser Wahrnehmung nicht revidiert sondern als Beleg von Führungsstärke ‘entschieden’ durchgesetzt. Das Handeln erweckt den Eindruck, dass es augenscheinlich durch operativem Aktionismus / ‘Sofortismus’ ohne angemessene interne Abstimmung und Sachkunde sowie die unkoordinierte parallele Erteilung interner Aufträge bestimmt ist. Diese Situation wird durch die weiterhin fehlenden personellen Konsequenzen für die [cut off]”

Mr. Mehdorn responded to the letter by firing its author, effective immediately.

Time: Hartmut Mehdorn estimated they might have an estimate of when construction will be complete at the end of 2014 at the earliest.
Money: Hartmut Mehdorn estimated the project will need another 1.1 billion euros, for a total of 5.4 billion euros.

(ZINNED en bawk.)

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