Guest Post: What a Difference a Year Makes

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Guest Post: What a Difference a Year Makes

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Culture of safety encouraging people to take action when needed #change #sustainability #energy
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 5:00pm


Volume 1 Number 20


On November 15, the deepwater drilling sector quietly passed an important first anniversary, the implementation of the Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) regulation.[i]  One year ago, SEMS evolved (some argue perhaps hastily) from a long history of risk management processes the industry had developed over decades and became law.[ii]

Perhaps more important than the passing of new regulations on the industry is the transformation the industry is undertaking. With the focus on a Culture-of-Safety, major changes in the core business processes are underway.

The Culture of Safety has a number of definitions across a wide organizational spectrum—both public and private entities.  According to one organization from the health industry, “In a culture of safety, people are not merely encouraged to work toward change; they take action when it is needed.  Inaction in the face of safety problems is taboo, and eventually the pressure comes from all directions—from peers as well as leaders.”[iii]

The Management of Change (MoC) is challenging.  For those executives that have been through this process (sometimes several times), the process is akin to a dental root canal.  Transforming organizational culture is beyond difficult.  Transforming industry culture is . . .

Simply changing by managerial fiat has shown not to result in longstanding organizational cultural conversion.  “Selling” the new culture to those steeped in the old requires fresh thinking and neoteric marketing models.

Effectively, this process is a cross-cultural negotiation.  In other words, the transaction process between one culture (the need for new thinking) and another (the desire to retain the status quo).  It may be as simple or as complicated as that.

This author first addressed the challenges of the Relationships, Behaviors, and Conditions (RBC) cross-cultural negotiation model in his doctoral dissertation that assessed the selling/buying process between western and eastern cultures.[iv]  In January 2011, the RBC framework was extended to encompass the cultural transformation process the deepwater drilling industry would undertake.[v]  Similarly, widely different perspectives.

The industry is committed to a new and sustainable Culture of Safety, not just in deepwater drilling activities but also across all field operations processes.  Changing decade’s old thinking will be done!  Society, through its elected officials and regulatory agencies demands nothing less.

What’s at risk is the license to operate—the revenue lifeblood!  Failure is not an option.  How the industry gets there is the only uncertainty.

Lessons learned from cross-cultural behavioral analysis are as important to this process as learning process safety management (PSM) good practices from other industry sectors, i.e., nuclear.  One can argue that cross-cultural negotiation models developed for international business development provide a good framework to “sell” industry participants on the new requirements.

How does your organization meet cross-cultural driven transformational challenges?

This post originally appeared on PennEnergyPosted with permission of the author.

The Governing Energy blog, presented by,  offers a series of biweekly commentaries about contemporary issues in organizational governance and its new role in energy operations from Dr. Scott M. Shemwell, CEO of Knowledge Ops.

Keywords: Alternative Energy | Change | action | culture of safety | deep water drilling | risk management | safety | sustainability