SPE News

Herding Cats Along the Strategic Roadway

The SPE International Board is an amazing group representing an even more amazing group—SPE membership. We really are passionate volunteers. Sometimes chairing this board can be daunting. Occasionally it is like herding cats.

The SPE Board in Accra, Ghana, in March. Pictured front row, left to right: Phongthorn Thavisin, Jean-Marc Dumas, Ramona Graves, Janeen Judah, Darcy Spady, Sami Al-Nuaim, Adeyemi Akinlawon, Aizhana Jussupbekova, Cam Matthews, Johana Dunlop; back row: Mark Rubin, Hisham Sadaawi, Chris Jenkins, Andrei Popa, Tom Blasingame, Birol Dindoruk, Elizabeth Cantrell, Karl Heskestad, Erin McEvers, Jennifer Miskimins, Joe Frantz, T.K. Sengupta, and Cesar Patino. Not pictured are Roland Moreau, Jeff Moss, Khalid Zainalabedin, and Helena Wu.

Leadership via a Strategic Plan appropriate to the times

The SPE International Board is an amazing group representing an even more amazing group—SPE membership. We really are passionate volunteers. Sometimes chairing this board can be daunting. Occasionally it is like herding cats.

Overall, we mostly go in the same direction. At the March meeting in Ghana, the board concluded a winding journey on the road to a strategic plan. As our old 5-year plan had been largely accomplished, I was faced with leading the board into figuring out what was next to keep us moving forward. I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to it.

The good news is we did it. There is no bad news—I think we did it well. First, as a full board we brainstormed ideas then conducted a survey of a good cross section of members. We even used a facilitator to help with our focus. It went very well, and I am very proud of the final product. I want to thank Janeen Judah, 2017 SPE president, and Mark Rubin, SPE executive ­director, for starting the process and keeping the focus. I also want to thank the members who contributed, both through the formal process and by bending my ear during the past year or so.

Some of the big changes were adding “sustainability” to our vision statement, and expressing five core values and four strategic priorities. We added a statement about professional pride. In this column, I’d like to talk about some of the big changes.

Let’s start with sustainability. I know that your 2019 SPE President Sami Al-Nuaim will speak a lot about this (and I don’t want to steal his thunder), but I do want to express our desire to deliberately include sustainability into our vision statement. If we aren’t sustainable, we won’t exist for very long. It’s that simple. Defining sustainability in an extractive industry might be a little trickier, but I would suggest that sustainability for me is extracting the resource in the manner that will allow the longest possible life span and environmental stewardship.

In fact, when I was on the SPE Board as regional director for Canada in 2014, we made the following statement on sustainability:

Exploration, development, and production of oil and gas resources provide affordable energy that contributes significantly to well-being and prosperity.

SPE encourages the responsible management of these oil and gas resources and operations including the appropriate management of social and environmental impacts and their related risks.

SPE demonstrates this commitment by offering its members opportunities to train, share knowledge, and advance practices for doing business in ways that balance economic growth, social development, and environmental protection to meet societal needs today and in the future (SPE 2014).

That definition still stands and is relevant. I remember we had a robust conversation around the definition, and we put a lot of thought into it. SPE International needs to include sustainability in its vision statement because the next generation has the desire to do so built in to their DNA. It’s part of them, so it’s part of us.

Next, our core values. Part of the strategic plan was to define what we are committed to:

  • Technical excellence
  • Thinking globally as One SPE
  • Providing membership value
  • Volunteerism
  • Stewardship for the long term

Think about these core values. Think about how each and every one of you delivers them daily in your work environment for the greater good of providing energy to our planet.
We also defined four strategic priorities to brand what we do as a society.

First, we are committed to lifelong learning. Last month’s column was about celebrating our senior members and included examples that prove that we can be active, contributing members after many years of participation. Combine the knowledge of the seniors with the energy and the innovation of our young professionals (and everything else in between), and that is our strength. Lifelong learning includes expanding the scope of programming to include such topics as big data, analytics, robotics, the Internet of Things, and other nontraditional technical disciplines. This also includes collaboration with related organizations, including professional societies, universities, and commercial firms to expand our programming. It means developing skills to be part of the digital transformation, and SPE will be active in that pursuit.

Second, we have a priority of knowledge transfer. We need to ensure a single online means to identify applicable SPE resources and content. In short, SPE must enable seamless ­online access. Whether it is an app, a knowledge base, an intelligent search, or an artificial intelligence “librarian,” SPE needs to provide this. We need to explore alternative delivery platforms for SPE training and content, but we also need to curate valuable non-SPE content, especially outside of our traditional coverage areas. The board established a specific goal to increase the amount of SPE content available on video—for example, Distinguished Lecturer presentations and conference panel/plenary sessions. Also, by leveraging our existing vehicles such as OnePetro, SPE Connect, and conferences (both SPE and collaborative events), we make sure that professionals of tomorrow have the data of today and yesterday.

Third, membership is of great importance to us. We value the individual membership of each and every person. We always need to broaden our membership base. We need to include members who work in information technology, data science, other forms of energy such as geothermal, and other technical professionals. We deliberately do not have any corporate memberships, but we must engage new companies to ensure their people can be positively affected through SPE membership. This society’s soul is the individual volunteers who are members and who contribute, exchange, and disseminate technical information. It is also important to ensure that our student chapter members convert into full-time professional members, especially if they join our industry. Our individual members demonstrate the competencies that make our industry operate safely and individually every single day. We value our members and their engagement, and we are pleased to have professionals from diverse technical disciplines.

Last, we debated at length about adding a strategic priority of professional pride. We received strong member feedback that SPE must help foster a professional pride in our contribution to the global energy needs. We want our members to understand and be inspired by our industry’s contributions. We want to help our members to represent the industry positively to the public, and want to educate students at all levels about the value of the oil and gas industry.

Energy4me is the program that SPE created specifically to educate students. The board is dedicated to expanding this program globally, and we are fortunate to have a passionate member leading the way—award-winning SPE “super member” Colin Black from the Aberdeen section. He does an incredible job of energy education via Energy4me, but there is only one Colin Black. We need a couple per section—which is closer to 500 Colin Blacks—with a passion for youth energy education. Back to our core value of volunteerism, this is where you come in. We look to our members to conduct easy, 1-hour classroom presentations. Contact the Energy4me team at ­energyed@spe.org to learn how.

We want to be proud of what we do, and be better members of society in a sustainable, long-term manner. Our members already are positively lifting people out of energy poverty and powering the Earth for our daily lives. It is a great industry, and SPE wants to celebrate that with you. Then we want to engage external stakeholders to talk about our industry, reflecting our pride.

Cats are great! They are so much fun to herd. This strategic plan has been a great exercise, and we now have a plan in place. It was designed more for a period of moderate oil prices, in which our industry is moving at a slower pace, and we need to be a little more frugal in our actions—you know, more sustainable. Our last strategic plan was designed during an era when things were still booming. Despite the downturn, we made significant progress toward our goals. This one is more moderate, reflecting our times, but including key actions that will take us to the next level.

One thing is for sure: There will be more change within the next 5 years, and we will need to do this all over again. That’s OK. We want to be current and relevant as the leaders of SPE and the best that we can be, one member at a time.