Weathering the storm

THE so called ‘Beast from the East’ was predicted to be hugely disruptive and it did not disappoint. The UK was placed on ‘red alert’ with large parts of the country isolated and all of our major transport severely disrupted to the point of futility.

In the context of global connectivity the responses of colleagues from other countries was fascinating, with some incredibly sympathetic and others bemused at our inability to cope with the extremes of an annual season.

In the context of international trade the Beast was a useful metaphor for some of the key components of success. Looking back at the oil and gas downturn there are lessons which deserve to be emphasised.

There was no industry ‘red alert’ as the sector was comfortable and not looking ahead at the potential for adverse conditions and there was no contingency to address any that did arise. Many harsh lessons have been learned and the survivors will prosper and look ahead to consider the impact of changing market conditions. They will have contingencies to address market specifics through different implementation strategies and also through plans to diversify.

Diversification will be into different industries, selling into new markets and a combination of both of these. Doing things differently and embracing or, better still, leading disruption will be critical components of success.

The uncomfortable challenge will be around allowing the new ideas to be fully developed rather than dismissed as ‘not how the industry does things’.

The Beast allowed many stories of innovation and perseverance to be lived and subsequently told. The inspirational story of the Glasgow surgeon who walked with snow shoes and poles for nearly three hours from Anniesland to Paisley to ensure that a cancer patient would not suffer cancellation of bowel surgery touched many hearts. This was not the normal commute or ideal preparation for the surgeon but the story encapsulates the spirt of engaging in what can be done rather than the reasons for inactivity.

That mindset is present in parts of the oil and gas industry but needs to become ‘unexceptional’ for the industry to achieve its potential.