Categotry Archives: Management

No Balls Means Bad Numbers

There is a terrible affliction among managers in the large companies which make up the modern oil and gas industry.  The medical term for it is “lacking balls” and it prevents those with the condition from making decisions. (Before I go on, let me just say that this is nothing to do with women in the industry: Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher showed that women can have balls, and sometimes more so than their male peers.) Let’s suppose I was […]

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“However did this happen?!”

I once worked for a company that was, by and large, run by a group of acquaintances if not actual mates.  The company was appallingly run, and survived largely on handouts from its parent company that did extremely well out of a monopoly position kindly granted to it by the government.  A feature of this company was regular reorganisations which saw the same dozen or so men (all of the same nationality) shuffled between the senior positions in HQ like […]

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The Peasants of Hydrocarbons

Once upon a time I was working in Africa and we had a requirement for a very specific and specialised type of fluid mixing nozzle for one of our tanks.  This type of equipment cannot be bought off the shelf as it is a bespoke piece of engineering designed for a specific application, and fabricated as a one-off.  As such, it wasn’t merely a procurement activity but more of a mini engineering project.  Hence it fell on my desk. We […]

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Fast Track to Failure

There’s a term that oil and gas company management like to use more and more often in relation to project execution, and that term is “Fast Track”, i.e. this project is Fast Track.  The term is used to designate a project as one whose execution will take place in a shorter time than normal, implying that it is considered a priority or at least its speedy completion is desired by somebody in the hierarchy (usually in order to realise production, […]

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Project Management is about to get harder

Every project I’ve worked on that has found itself adrift of where it should be in terms of costs and schedule with the end nowhere in sight (i.e. all of them) there has always been a mentality among the project team that “it will get done eventually”.  Meaning, no matter how bad it looks now eventually the project will be completed and production will start and the whole thing will be deemed a success.  In other words, the concept that […]

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Big Moustache, Bigger Shoes

The death of Total’s boss Christophe de Margerie in a plane crash in Moscow late Monday night  has shocked everybody not only in France but in the global oil industry as well.  As the tributes poured in for the man many nicknamed Big Moustache – a term he seemed almost proud of – I read the same adjectives several times: charismatic, unique, larger-than-life, outspoken, funny, original, independent.  When people write of famous powerful men they often exaggerate, especially if writing […]

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Dirty Rifle, Dead Soldier

Many years ago when I did my military service, one of the many nasty surprises we got during our initial weeks of basic training was the ludicrous level of pendantry that was applied to personal appearance and cleanliness of the self, kit, and barracks. Each morning we were required to stand beside our beds with every item of issued equipmment laid out in a prescribed manner on top of a bed block – blankets and sheets folded in a certain […]

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Safer betting on a horse

Recently I was asked to attend an investors’ forum put on by a major oil company on behalf of a friend who works for an investment fund. He asked me to go because he knew I had the inside track on the workings of the oil industry, and thought it might be fun. It was. The representative of the oil company showed a slide of a collapsing Return on Capital Expenditure which was inversely proportional to the oil price, and […]

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"This is a private matter."

What price your life, sir?

When oil companies set up shop in some backward, dangerous shithole the biggest risk they face is how to transport their employees without getting them killed or injured.  Road accidents is always by far the biggest cause of deaths and injuries in the oil business, mostly because the places they operate feature one or more of the following: bad road surfaces, poor signage, no lighting, no road markings, ice, snow, sand, mud, vehicles subject to no maintenance, poor training and […]

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But it's within the budget!

Sleeping Around

During my career I saw many companies attempt to accommodate their travelling employees by entering into agreements with hotel chains. The most sensible I saw worked like this. The Oil Company entered into an agreement with a global hotel chain, which set out an agreed rate for a standard room in each hotel around the world. I don’t know whether this was set as a percentage of the standard rate, or set individually per hotel, but the agreement was that […]

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