The Truth About Change Management and Other Lessons from an Energy Giant

Paul Kurchina
Paul Kurchina in Change Management October 27, 2019

Change is a pervasive fact of life in every aspect of our external world, internal spaces, and workplaces.

Most of us have learned how to deal with it, even to the point of appreciation. But on occasion, we may still question why a particular shift has to happen in the first place.

Whether a change is anticipated or avoided, executives—such as Jim Green, general manager of IT Service Delivery at Chevron Corporation—believe in their shared responsibility to embrace it. “Businesses must help their employees and partners, as well as local communities and the entire world, move through change with a value proposition that benefits everyone,” he said during his presentation at the 2019 Best Practices for Oil & Gas conference.

The Mother of Innovation is Closer Than We Think

We’ve all heard to the old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention.” And the oil and gas industry has certainly tested that wisdom throughout a recent 20-year stretch of wild swings in prices and demand.

“For a good 18 months to two years,” Green said, “industry players were so immersed in figuring out how to redefine themselves for a very different competitive margin environment. We weren’t ready to sit down, even in 2015, to discuss the adoption of digital technology. But once we got back up on our feet, the necessity for digitalization became clear as we try to thrive in a strong competitive environment.”

But even the strongest, most capable businesses cannot compete at a scale of today’s technology companies without addressing critical concerns such as reliability, affordability, and security. Green observed, “This technology shift is table stakes, considering the billions in capital investment spent every month by software giants. Even something as obvious as the mobile technology that we can’t seem to live without demonstrates how employees are evolving their expectations for the technology they use.”

Business Transformation Is a Multidimensional Journey

To position themselves in the best possible competitive light, companies need to increase their digital fluency—from boardroom leadership to the plant workforce. As Green noted, “this is a big culture play.” Everyone in the business needs to understand what digitalization is and which value opportunities it can bring.

Through this exercise, leaders can accomplish the most important thing they can do to secure future success: shifting the digital mindset of the business culture toward growth. This perspective allows companies to view their transformation through the lens of multiple dimensions, including:

  • Data as an asset:This concept is about transparency enabled by clean data that is ready to use and accessible to any employee, partner, supplier, or customer who needs it.
  • Shared API connectivity: IT architecture built with point-to-point integrations can, over time, restrict opportunities for innovation innovate as well as implementation and integration of new solutions. This technical debt can be overcome with built-in APIs for multiple purposes to add flexibility to the IT environment.
  • Security by design:Decoupling change from the security model in the cloud and with different mobile devices ultimately affects the security strategy. In turn, security needs to be a carefully deliberated function that is enabled on a digital platform and allows the ability to rework applications when required.
  • Digital platforms:Managing multiple business functions—such as finance, the supply chain, marketing, and inventory management—on a single digital platform allows the company to run effectively and value-driven across a series of workflows, data, and solutions.
  • Cloud-first focus: Cloud technology presents an opportunity to pioneer new capabilities into best practices that solve a variety of challenges.
  • Agility as a goal:The desire for increasing operational agility is not about getting stuff done fast. Instead, it’s about doing the right projects and delivering added value to everyone in the business network as quickly as possible.

Change Is Magical When Everyone Works Together

Any kind of change, large and small, can bring uncertainty, discomfort, risk, and urgency. But with the right mindset, the real magic can happen when every person in the business gets their hands dirty in all aspects of the transformation process.

As Green reminded the audience, this is not a one-size-fits-all mindset. Some people may be skeptical and move slowly toward this perspective, compared with their colleagues. But with a transparent strategy, open discussion about the vision, and accessible opportunities for upscaling digital skills, the entire business ecosystem will come together to move the company to the next level.

ASUG recently wrapped up this year’s event, but you can join us in September 2020 in The Woodlands, Texas for the 10th anniversary of the Best Practices for Oil & Gas conference.