Petroleum Industry 2020: People First: Excellence and Fairness - Part 2
- Abdul-Jaleel Al-Khalifa (2007 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2007
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 12 - 17
- 2007. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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The future challenges facing our industry extend far beyond conventional practices and linear thinking. New discoveries are normally high cost and technically complex—take, for example, oil and gas discoveries beneath salt horizons in deep water. Incremental recovery of declining mature fields is achieved at a higher cost of drilling and remedial operations. This new business climate calls for a continual evolution of cost-effective technologies. These technologies can be developed and deployed only by a fully engaged, competent workforce. These workforce characteristics are typical of corporations positioned in the engagement quadrant, where excellence and fairness are the norm (Fig. 1). Conversely, corporations in the disengagement quadrant suffer from unfairness, mediocrity, and higher costs. Therefore, corporate leadership needs to promote a culture of excellence and fairness at both the employee and the corporate level.
Corporations are run by a pyramidal hierarchy, with middle management at the base, executive management at the middle, and a chief executive officer at the apex. The CEO reports to a board of directors that represents the share holders. Incumbents, at all these hierarchy levels, can have different approaches to achieving commercial success. They can be leaders who shape the business environment and advance both commercial interests and people values. Such leaders are like farmers who cultivate vigorous plants (energetic employees). These plants need both visible, above-the-ground nutrition and invisible, below-the-ground nourishment. The visible nutrition is the air and sunshine (leaders publicizing fair policies and posting people values on the walls of the corporation). The invisible nourishment is water and fertilizers (leaders walking the talk and acting with fairness, trust, and integrity). In this environment, the plants grow and start bearing fruit (employees are engaged and start innovating new technologies). This process is demonstrated in Fig. 2. In a corporation, these are the managers who tap people’s hearts and infuse trust, respect, and integrity through the entire organization. They draw on people’s full potential and enjoy the highest level of their ingenuity and innovation. In return, these leaders are loved, admired, and respected. Others in the corporate hierarchy are not leaders. They focus only on results and achievements. They know how to reap the fruits, but they do not irrigate and nourish the plants. Unfortunately, they disengage their subordinates and fail to tap their full potential.
Our industry needs leaders who champion fairness, excellence, and people engagement. To develop this environment, leaders need to concentrate on three elements:
- Preparing the soil: How can leaders resolve the tension between people values and commercial pressure?
- Air and sunshine: Are corporate policies fair?
- Water and nourishment: How do leaders live fairness and integrity?
- The Business Environment
People values are at high risk when commercial pressure is high. In the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, many of our industry’s expert professionals found themselves jobless overnight, leaving a large vacuum that was only felt years later. Corporate chiefs declared that those job cuts were a regrettable necessity. But how can short-term necessities hurt the long-term fate of our industry? Is this a shortcoming of the current financial model? Is what happened avoidable in the future?
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