The Missing Piece in Why Some Complex Projects Fail
Why do 80% of megaprojects in the oil industry fail? A recently published book reaches a counterintuitive conclusion on the leadership traits required to run complex projects successfully.
Exceptional Supervision Requires a Consistent Commitment to the Soft Skills
Promotion from a role in field operations to a supervisory position presents its own set of challenges. Although your technical know-how may be topnotch, are you ready to manage people well? These tips point you in the right direction to develop the new skills you’ll need.
Three Ethics Principles for Successful Technical Sales
A technical sales pro risks losing a sale by trying to make a recommendation that is not in line with the customer’s request. But he or she is ethically obligated to make the recommendations that best address the customer’s needs even if the customer asks for a different product.
A Box of Operations: How To Influence What You’re Going To Get
Sizing a person’s “operating box” for making decisions and taking actions to make room for ingenuity and affordable mistakes provides opportunities for his and the organization’s learning. Which factors affect the resizing of the box and how can the limits be adjusted to encourage continued growth?
Crushing Gold: The Downside of KISS
Mediocre leadership crushes employee gold and can be the unwitting source of unforeseen organizational outcomes.
Curiosity Saves Lives
If an organization has a culture that implicitly or explicitly rewards short-term productivity, what happens to safety numbers? Up or down? And why is that?
Hierarchy Theory and the Sound of One Hand Clapping
Application of hierarchy theory helps in understanding complexity and is a tool that you should have in your engineering and management toolboxes.
Want Great Soup? Focus on the Broth
The secret ingredient to good soup is good broth. In the same way, culture makes the difference between reliable high performance and mediocrity in an organization.
Memory Isn’t What It Used To Be
The science of memory reveals unexpected and surprising findings. When is a memory accurate? Are our memories significantly different from the actual events?
Simple Rules in a Complex World
In this column, Howard Duhon examines different types of complexity theory.
Engineering a Safer World
In this column, Howard Duhon provides a book report on Nancy Leveson’s "Engineering a Safer World."
The Reason for Reason: To Win Arguments
It may seem like reason is a powerful tool to lead us to truth, but does it really work well?
Major Decisions May Not Matter That Much
Decision making is a critically important part of engineering. In this article, the author argues that the day-to-day project execution decisions are more important than major project decisions and deserve more attention.
Influence: Talk to My Elephant
Influence is an important part of engineering. It is not enough to develop a brilliant design; you have to convince someone to build it. Intuition and reason are important factors in influence.
Why Business Advice Is Often Bad Advice
Whether using internal expertise or outside consultants, projects and initiatives can go awry due to cultural issues and bad management advice. This can have implications for many aspects of a business, including process safety.
Action Science: Moving Away From Defensiveness and Silo Behavior in Our Work
A subject field perhaps little known in the oil and gas industry is action science, a strategy for increasing the skills and confidence of individuals in groups to create organizations and to foster long-term individual and group effectiveness.
Public Perception is Vital to Success of Oil and Gas Industry Operations
Public perception is one of the most important variables in determining the success of oil and gas operations, and companies must do more to help shape this perception.
Industry Can Do More To Raise Awareness of Operational Safety
Gone are the days when missing a few fingers is a badge of honor in the oilpatch. Author, Distinguished Lecturer and Consultant Ken Arnold discusses how far the the industry has come in prioritizing safety, and what more can be done to improve it.
A Different Take on the Fracturing Meme
Gerald Verbeek contests the theory that fracturing opposition is meme driven.
The Fracturing Meme
You have probably heard that the Eskimo language has several dozen words for “snow,” a frequently repeated and well-known idea. It is untrue. A meme is a snippet of culture that is learned by imitation and passed on by imitation or repetition.
Poetry at Work: An Engineer’s Passion for Safety Inspires Industry
In the August Oil and Gas Facilities, I wrote about the inherency of poetry in our work and how it helps define who we are. In this issue, I share a remarkable example of poetry at work in the mind and heart of an engineer and how it resonated with people and helped to change an industry.
Poetry at Work: The Poetry of Engineering
You may not think that poetry and engineering have anything in common, but there is something poetic about the right design that elegantly solves a problem. And, there is undeniably something poetic in making the same mistake again.
Bhopal: A Root Cause Analysis of the Deadliest Industrial Accident in History
I was an employee of Union Carbide Corp. (UCC), and like other employees, I know exactly where I was when I first heard the news. Analyzing the root cause of this horrible accident provides insight and opportunities to learn from the mistakes that led to Bhopal.
Changing Personal and Organizational Habits to Improve Safety Performance
Human factors may be a trendy term, but human habits are the targets in effecting change in behaviors related to performing work safely. Recent research around what habits are, how they are formed and changed and how they affect our lives has important implications for creating a safety culture.
Building Your Career Character
Much like a character in a novel, a young professional can build their career character.
Risk Society: The Distribution of “Bads”
For this column, I have elected to do a book review on Risk Society by Ulrich Beck in which he argued that we are in the midst of a major cultural change in Western society.
The Role of Psychological Factors in Major Project Cost and Schedule Overruns
We are comfortable with the reality of swift intuitive judgement being the primary decision-making approach of experienced engineers in emergency situations. But as the engineer in the situation has less experience available to him/her, how do psychological factors affect outcomes?
A Social License to Operate in the 21st Century: Overcoming the Clash of Two Cultures
Energy development projects that affect local communities frequently face opposition. This article describes an approach to dealing with local communities that has proved effective.
Group Decision Making: A Powerful Force for Good and Bad
The understanding of decision-making processes is critical in ensuring project success and safety. Project failures—and disasters—can result from the lack of understanding or implementation of sound principles.
Barriers to Engagement: Why It Is Time for Oil and Gas to Get Serious About Public Communication
The challenges the industry faces are not only or even primarily technical—they have to do with how the industry sees and communicates with the public, and with demands from the public to have a voice in decision making. This article explores the barriers to engaging with the public.
Explaining Human Judgment Failures: Heuristics and Biases from the Laboratory to the Field
This regular column addresses the social side of engineering. We are pleased to include an article written by two of the more prominent names in decision-theory research. Dale Griffin and Thomas Gilovich describe interesting and important insights from the study of heuristics and biases.
How Can We Improve Our Safety Culture?
There is little doubt that the industry is committed to improving its safety performance—and most agree that improving the collective culture around safety is an effective approach to achieving this goal. But the specifics of how to achieve lasting change are more difficult.
Engaging with NGOs: Potential for Adding Value?
Expectations have continued to rise over recent years regarding how oil and gas projects and facilities analyze, manage, and communicate about their social and environmental performance. NGOs are among the most interested and active stakeholders, and increasingly they expect to be engaged.
Value-Focused Thinking: The Foundation for Decision Quality
The oil and gas industry is technical and challenging. Because the technical issues are dealt with by humans, we also face social, psychological, and cognitive issues which are frequently as challenging. In this regular column, we address the softer side of engineering.
Cultural Disasters: Learning From Yesterday’s Failures To Be Safe Tomorrow
Although offshore disasters are rare, they have resulted in significant loss of human life, environmental damage, and negative impacts on the larger society. We vow to learn from them, and address the technical challenges, but less often explore the role of culture, such as safety culture.
What is Normal Behavoir at Your Work Sites?
Recent accidents in the oil and gas industry have renewed interest in whether behavioral sciences can provide insights that can be translated into safety interventions.
Better Decisions: A Two-Way Street
Engineers in the oil and gas industry make tough decisions for a wide variety of issues, including risk and safety, and about design and other types of tradeoffs, as well as operational assessments.
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