National Oil & Gas Companies have similar transactional and traditional working styles across regions, religions, and cultures. Among other reasons, this is the result of decades of direct influence exerted by the large global oil companies, who either owned the now National oil companies or had decisive influence over their operational and working methods. Over the last decades, this has not changed in spite of ongoing nationalizations. The old values and passive/aggressive cultures have been perpetuated as there was no urgent reason to touch anything.
Conditions have dramatically changed over the last few years. Today all oil companies, international or national, as well as all service companies, are in urgent need of profound cultural (and organizational) adjustments towards more transformational, collaborative and innovation-oriented cultures due to the impact of new technologies, huge shifts in market conditions and labor pyramids. All C-suite managers in the industry know this is one of the main and inevitable challenges ahead.
The oil price crisis only accelerated the need and in some cases indeed accelerated changes. NOCs in MENA and SO-Asia, in particular, have started large change projects. Elsewhere, NOCs are starting to develop small or large change projects as well. The positive side of these initiatives is that most are born and designed at boardroom level. This is however at the same time its biggest challenge, as there is no University that prepares boardroom members for transformational leadership roles in large innovative cultural changes. As a result, many C-suite leaders –unaware of the consequences – honestly believe that they can delegate their untransferable roles and responsibilities to the chain of command who on their turn delegate this in Change Champions or worse, make a project- or change manager responsible. As a result, many cultural and organizational changes get stuck in the chain of command and turn into a paper tiger.
Cultural changes eventually need to translate into specific new behaviors (based upon revised and validated values). This can only be done with a strong top-down driven exemplifying leadership that exhibits the new values and positive behavior, strong enough to influence the whole organization. It means that everybody in the chain of command, from CEO to supervisor, needs to understand their specific sponsorship, coaching and communications roles and be trained properly to execute them on time and within the designed roll-out strategy. The chain of command holds the power and authority to do so and – hopefully – has enough trust and respect from the workforce to engage. If this is not the case, this also needs to be recognized and corrected and I don’t mean throwing a bunch of Change Champions at the staff. That’s admitting the failure of leadership all along.
Cultural change starts and ends with solid emotional and behavioral preparation of all leaders and managers (including and above all the C-Suite level).
Change Managers help to do this (or should be helping). Their main task and role are to prepare the chain of command and work with and through them towards the rest of the workforce, implementing and anchoring new behaviors.
DOFAS offers leaders and managers workshops to get prepared for such roles. André Baken, lead consultant in DOFAS: “We find time after time that Digitalization and Intelligent Oilfield Projects fail to reach their objectives. This is because they are often not identified as the game changers they are and the chain of command stays in their comfort zones, turning into the blockers of their own projects. There is no blame for such behavior, they simply don’t know. The workshops are meant for leaders who already understand the situation and feel they need a serious attempt at quicker and more sustainable ways of dealing with the challenges, together with some good benchmarks and tools to better fill in their own roles and responsibilities on different levels and moments.”
Baken says these Workshops hope to attract innovators and early adopters: “Right now the industry is awakening from decades of “old school industry management” and we understand that it will probably take at least another decade before innovative cultures become the new normal. What we are looking for now are the leaders of companies, teams, and projects that understand they have to be the active leaders of these processes. These managers will become the industry leaders. In the years to come, they will be explaining their success stories to the majority of managers and to new generations of leaders stepping up now.