How Integrated Operations has Influenced Offshore Leadership Practice

How Integrated Operations has Influenced Offshore Leadership Practice

Kari Skarholt (SINTEF, Norway), Lisbeth Hansson (SINTEF, Norway) and Gunnar M. Lamvik (SINTEF, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2002-5.ch002
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This chapter discusses how Integrated Operations (IO) has affected new ways of working and addresses leadership practice in particular. It investigates both the positive and negative effects of IO in terms of virtual leadership teams and local leadership offshore, and how this may affect safety on board. IO contributes to the onshore organization being more actively involved in problem-solving and decision-making in offshore operations compared to earlier. This way, it has become easier to reach a shared situational awareness concerning planning and prioritizing of operations on board. However, the authors find that the integration of sea and land has not been successful in achieving increased hands-on leadership offshore. To explore this issue, they discuss findings from different research projects studying IO and changes in work practices onshore and offshore at different installations/assets in a Norwegian oil and gas company.
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Why study leadership practice within an IO context? IO primarily involves leadership teams, both offshore and onshore. The introduction of new work practices through the use of advanced communication technology has thus been a concern of management. The offshore crew, for example, is not in the same degree involved in collaboration with the onshore organization, and they do not spend as much time in computer-supported collaboration rooms as the leadership teams do.

Another reason for exploring leadership and IO is that one of the goals for IO has been to develop a more hands-on leadership practice offshore. In the oil and gas company we studied, it was for a while expected that managers spend at least 4 hours outdoors per day during a shift period. The purpose was to encourage a hands-on management practice, which was expected to: Affect offshore workers’ attitudes to safe performance, increase awareness in the crew about how to prevent accidents and high-risk situations through the presence of management. Hands-on management is the opposite of doing administrative, electronic paperwork in front of a computer or workstation. To be hands-on means to be involved in “actual” problem-solving and discussions, as well as being out in the process facilities, drill floor, workshops or office-landscape (Næsje et al. 2007). As we have previously argued (Skarholt et al. 2009, Næsje, et al. 2009), being hands-on relates to operating models where one actively seeks to enhance flexibility and robustness, as seen in lean manufacturing or the Toyota production system (Womack 1990).

IO is about improved communication, better work planning and qualified decision-making. In other words, real-time data is made accessible to onshore personnel, and onshore expertise is made available to the offshore organization. A useful concept to illustrate the offshore/onshore axis, as used in Figure 1, is the term social field (Grønhaug 1974). Social field denotes concrete systems of interrelated events. Events in this context are relations between social actors as they pursue their specific tasks, purposes or issues of actions. Empirically, fields can be defined in terms of its own dynamic (“Eigendynamik”).

Figure 1.

The onshore field, IO field, and the offshore field – the limitations of IO

It can be maintained that the offshore/onshore axis consists of three different social fields: The onshore field, the offshore field and, in the middle, the IO field. Each field has a dynamic of its own and interacts with the others. But as we see in Figure 1, there will always be a part of the offshore operation that is not covered by the ICT-based collaboration along the onshore/offshore axis. Some decisions have to be made locally – either in the offshore organization or in the onshore organization. Many incidents or accidents originate in something that takes place solely in one field and thus has to be handled and prevented locally by personnel acting in that particular field. If the overall aim is to pave the way for enhanced hand-on management, and the challenge is seen solely as an offshore issue, then it can be seen as a derailment to communicate the matter to the onshore organization.

In the so-called IO field, offshore and onshore issues play together. In this field there is a high degree of integration of management and expertise offshore and onshore on the one hand, but on the other, there are still huge obstacles to overcome if one is to achieve visible management or hands-on leadership. In the case of the latter, the primary obstacle is the degree of administrative tasks and paperwork.

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