Remember Jerome K. Jerome? If you do you are likely one of the oldest living humans on the planet. Mr. Jerome was an English writer and humorist whose best works were published in the late 1800’s. Some of his titles included “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow” and “Three Men in a Boat”. If you have about as much patience as this writer, you are already wondering where this is going. We’ll get there soon…
I first learned a little about Jerome back in the dark ages (before girls) on the Texas A&M campus. As a student in the geeky engineering club (not university sanctioned) one of us determined that true enlightenment existed beyond calculus, perhaps through literature. Picture a Friday evening: an Old Smokey grill, Lone Star longnecks, more than a couple of domino games in progress and you have captured the essence of our literature enrichment program.
And then there were the authors… Zipping through Emerson, Dickson, Twain, Faulkner, Fitzgerald was pretty straightforward. Then as engineering types are wont to do, we drifted toward complex obscurity. You know, for a challenge we made it harder. Thus, the birth of what became a lifelong interest in Jerome. Jerome was actually funny, reading him makes one laugh. Off and on through the years Jerome has “popped up” on the radar. For example, during a business trip to the U.K a few years ago we visited his grave and museum.
In January, Robert Brelsford, Downstream Technology Editor for O&GJ (Jan 22, 2018) posited a piece called “Lean Machines”. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read it. Mr. Brelsford is relaying anecdotes from industry executives regarding “Lean” implementations in the industry. The stories convey frustration with analytics and how these are being put to use in the industry. Terms like “cut the fat”; “morons trying to convince me”; and “people with time running amuck” were cited.
Certitude Group works in this space providing services in the form of consulting engagements and interim staffing for performance and reliability improvement programs. As to the comments above, we see it too. “All you need is our technology”; “Just put a couple of “lean folks” into the mix”; or one of our favorites – “If it moves you need to measure it”. We see far too many analytics installations and lean programs either trivialize or ignore several important aspects of lean: culture and people. The measurement technology can be awful or great but if an admin guy somewhere is the only one that owns it, look out! In these cases, the forecast calls for pain.
As a consultancy, we have done hundreds of performance improvement projects, set up Lean process and analytics across a number of industries including Oil & Gas. The most difficult and tricky aspect of our work is finding the unseen path to embed our work inside our client’s culture. We absolutely know that nothing is sustainable if it doesn’t just become “part of what we do every day”. To be blunt, if the analytics people are telling you how to operate, your organization has already failed with Lean. By definition an administrative scorekeeper telling an operator what to do is abject failure. If you find yourself in this situation you should consider an alternative approach and perhaps a total restart.
What does this have to do with Jerome? Well our favorite Jerome quote has application here:
“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
If you find yourself looking at it or talking about it for hours on end then you aren’t managing your business. The concept of creating shareholder value through analytics has grown to mythical proportions in the last few years. Analytics are nothing more than one perspective on operations. We’ve yet to see a spreadsheet deliver a producing well or stellar run times. Well, you get the point…
At the end of the day, someone needs to plan and execute a maintenance job; jump in a truck and put eyes on a compressor; pick a stimulation method for a well; order the capital equipment for the next turnaround; and etc. Sure, analytics can help but nothing replaces a winning culture fostered by thoughtful, experienced leadership. Short of that you’re not operating your business, you’re just watching it… like Jerome.
Have a great second quarter everyone!
Certitude Group can assist with an assessment of the current fit, function, and effectiveness of your business processes and we can design enhancements to not only correct deficiencies but also improve the effectiveness and profitability of your operations. We have identified hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits associated with business process effectiveness upgrades. These benefits materialize through better technical outcomes and cost effectiveness. We can do this within the framework of a formal consulting or interim staffing engagement.
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