Technical Report: Guidance for Decision Quality for Multicompany Upstream Projects

Regardless of the oil price, large joint venture upstream projects have significantly underperformed on cost, schedule, and production. Smaller upstream projects have not fared much better.1 While there are a number of good books that go into some detail on reasoning focused principally on project management, poor decision quality played a very significant role in the underperformance.

Therefore, a group of experienced subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the oil and gas industry worked collaboratively to develop a joint technical report focused on good decision quality. Additional industry input was obtained from a discussion session at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Annual Technology and Exhibition Conference in September 2015.

The resulting report “Guidance for Decision Quality for Multicompany Upstream Projects” (181246-TR) is available for free download at and provides practical advice on the application of decision quality principles, which apply during all phases of a project’s life cycle, including exploration, development, and operational phases.

The group of SMEs focused on decision quality as defined by the Society of Decision Professionals (SDP) in terms of a Decision Maker’s Bill of Rights.2 The focus of this report is on gaining alignment as much as understanding differences among the participants regarding the opportunity, alternatives, information, values, trade-offs, logical analysis, and commitment to action.

Both SPE and SDP sponsored this effort requiring numerous meetings of the SMEs to reach agreement, and both societies believe this technical report to contain valuable information that should be shared broadly with our communities.

Attend an SPE webinar on 22 June presenting the technical report, “Guidance for Decision Quality for Multicompany Upstream Projects,” featuring 2017 SPE President Janeen Judah as guest speaker and Pat Burdett, lead author of the report, as the speaker. To view details and register, visit

Decision Maker’s Bill of Rights

As a decision maker, you have the right to

  • A decision frame that structures the decision in the context most relevant to your needs
  • Creative alternatives that allow you to make a selection among viable and distinct choices
  • Relevant and reliable information upon which to base your decision, including the uncertainty of the information
  • An understanding of the potential consequences of each alternative based on your choice criteria
  • A logical analysis that allows you to draw meaningful conclusions from the information to reach clarity of action
  • Effective facilitation to gain alignment and commitment to action
1Edward W. Merrow, founder and CEO of Independent Project Analysis Inc.
2Used with permission of SDP, a global, multi-industry organization dedicated to promoting quality decision standards and connecting decision makers, practitioners, and academics of decision sciences.


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