Questions have been posted on numerous occasions in forums regarding Safety and Performance improvement within upstream projects, especially following start up and during operations phases – such as how do we ensure it, turn around a dire situation, or improve what is currently in place – so it deserved a post of its own, with the small tweak of adding the importance of leadership into the mix.
Good answers and suggestions have been presented, and one size does not fit all given the complexity of the type of industry we are in. Speaking in general terms, the fact is that to improve Safety AND Performance (they should indeed go hand in hand), solutions need to have a combination of technical/engineering answers (the field fundamentals such as ensuring our people truly understand the operations and procedures, doing the work of applying the PROCESS or using a proven SYSTEM – depending on which one the company/consultancy uses) along with the proper visible SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP in place, by:
– Adapting styles to circumstance, and being pragmatic where required (agility);
– Managing by walking around;
– Observing and listening first;
– Providing honest feedback;
– Displaying integrity (both personal and organizational);
– Leading by example not merely by words;
– Utilizing proper communication and soft skills (such as empathy, among other elements of emotional intelligence);
– Setting the cultural tone;
… This requires much focused effort to coordinate at one time and can take some time to show results (in the same way that a properly balanced, diverse, financial portfolio must be organized, and not abandoned with panic or sold at the first indication of loss); however, studying High Reliability Organizations in other industries such as nuclear, aerospace, chemicals, etc, show us they have done it.
Now, in parallel, it is true that we defintely dont want to make it TOO complicated or overwhelm crews (especially those working in high risk areas of upstream such as drilling, wells, intervention, and production, at plants and platforms, onshore or offshore)… Particularly when you are working outside of the core long producing areas of US, Middle East, West Africa, in other locations where crew members have much less experience and awareness, sometimes part of the answer is simply to go back to basics over and over to make things stick (while trying new ideas to make it interesting where possible) as boring as it may be periodically for seasoned hands. The K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) will serve us well in these situations… Which is, by the way what I’d like to do with this piece, not making it too long, complex, or detailed that you’d stop reading halfway through 😉
A good way to get people to pay attention and engage is to make the topics discussed a little personal, such as showing them videos of accidents which have occurred and how they can learn the lessons in order to go home safely after hitch to loving arms, to their families, children, wives, husbands, girlfriends, etc, with all fingers, toes, and injury free – nothing is more important than this. For the more recent generations who have been raised on sound bytes through four second media clips, often times something shocking is the only way to spark them mentally or get them thinking.
Also remember, at the end of the day, roughnecks, drillers, and production operators have no respect for “safety” guys who are clueless about what operations happen on site or do not know the difference between a rotary table and a dinner table. They need first to be heard (listening! – it is one of the most critical traits of an exemplary leader) and then to hear it from people who understand what they deal with on a daily basis. Something high performing people and organizations understand is this… With greater awareness, we can ask better questions, and when we ask better questions, we get clearer answers. Then we may start to give better inputs and receive better outputs that provide VALUE to them.
Some of these methods, such as visible leadership and personal engagement, are difficult to measure metrically, through the traditional leading or lagging indicators, but they can show end results over time. As I always say, OPERATIONAL SAFETY, QUALITY, AND PERFORMANCE feed off one another and do not necessarily happen in vacuums; they can be addressed together with an integrated approach, but it must be done with a hybrid of a boots on the ground and top down method.
“Excellence is never an accident… it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines our destiny.” Aristotle (+ 2000 years ago)