Pillars of the Industry - David Reid of National Oilwell Varco.
On any given day, the exploration and production (E&P) business is fraught with myriad challenges. To address these challenges properly, they generally need to be framed technically. Unfortunately, there are gray areas in life that do not lend themselves to a technical solution, so we may have disappointing results. Therefore, I propose the alternative principle of failing forward (known by its technical term as continuous improvement), a principle which defies the silos of pure success and failure. Failing forward is ensuring the experience of failing is not distorted into a picture of who we are, but forms an important part of discovery, wherein we learn not to hide from errors but instead to embrace them as opportunities to learn.
When we optimize our operations, two factors are untouchable: risk management and calculation of insurance coverage in case of failure. Our E&P careers ask us to execute risky projects while working hard to eliminate risk with contingency alternatives. It sounds contradictory, but it is the way we have trained our industry mind to work and we do it every day. The key is to manage expectations while knowing where you can have some operational leeway. For example, on a drilling operation, all our capital equipment works in series with low utilization and has many spares to cover an undefined wide spectrum of risk, while service personnel stand by, getting paid to judge the right time to intervene in the process.
In my opinion, we really don’t have a continuous improvement culture, and, as many of you know, rigs are filled with people trying to avoid failure or “manage the fire” without asking how it started. If you managed the fire with no one getting hurt and operations not impacted too adversely, then you have succeeded.