Strategy originates from the Greek work strategia and can be defined as a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The word has its roots in military operations with regard to a battle or war. Rather than view strategy as planning, Henry Mintzberg at McGill defines strategy as a “pattern in a stream of decisions”. Whatever words work best for you, the idea is to focus limited resources on achievable goals.
It could be said that our industry is in one of its toughest battles in a long time with a challenged oil and gas future outlook. We’ve all seen previous battles in this industry, but is this war? Globally and domestically, it is economics that creates most of the casualties.
An April SPE JPT article doesn’t paint an improved outlook either. It could be said that there’s been a huge shift in the industry which is resetting so many standards with regard to budgets, salaries and services. Dynamic changes are also happening within the regulatory side and professional societies.
So what is the CSEG’s Strategy as it moves towards the 75th Anniversary in 2025?
The CSEG Executive met for its first Strategy Session on Saturday May 28, 2016 generously facilitated by Steve Armstrong (www.stevenarmstrong.ca). This is where we analyzed the results of the CSEG Strategy Survey and prioritized the objectives from that input into short term and long term objectives. Thank you to all who participated in that survey. We heard you and we acted on your input. See the CSEG Strategy Plan and Survey results on the CSEG website home page.
The CSEG Executive subsequent Strategy sessions were held on July 26th and September 23rd to finalize the short and long term objectives and put some ‘how’ into the objectives. We have a ‘living document’ that will exist for the current, incoming and future Executives and CSEG members to use as a compass to guide the CSEG into the future. It is fair to say that strategy should be part of every Board discussion and with that said, the CSEG and the CSEG Foundation have adopted a consent agenda process in order to make time for valuable discussion in regular meetings, such as the strategy plan. See the following for a description of a consent agenda: www.help4nonprofits.com/UseItToday/UseItToday-Consent_Agenda.htm
The CSEG strategy plan will continue to change as the society needs to change but it should be transparent to all members.
Again, thank you all who helped the Executives by providing input on the strategy survey, to Steven Armstrong for donating his precious time to facilitate our strategy meeting, to Jim Racette and Alyssa Middleton for all your assistance to make this a reality and for the hard work and personal time sacrifice of the CSEG Executives and Foundation representatives.
The CSEG Executive identified four themes from the member input via the strategy survey. This includes:
- Financial Health of the CSEG
- Member Value
- Promotion of the Profession
- Position of the CSEG as a professional society
The Executives continue to work on short term and long term objectives under these four themes and will discuss the CSEG strategy at the monthly Executive meetings as we work towards Vision 2025, when the CSEG celebrates its 75th Anniversary. We continue to work on making the CSEG a clearly Canadian Society.
Unfortunately, the accordion effect of a downturn is always represented by a gap in incoming scientist talent. Investing in the future and education is wise. But we know that and that is why the CSEG Foundation Scholarship Fund exists. I recently read that a key technique in hiring or retaining key employees from a recruiter is for companies to hire a working mother, an athlete, a military person or a farmer. A delightful comment that was made in the article was that if you find a candidate with all four characteristics then don’t let her go and you must ask her for the secret of life since she is sure to know.
There are a few other things that have been happening for the benefit of the CSEG. I was able to meet Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr on August 5th, 2016 at a Chamber of Commerce event held at the Palliser. My spot was graciously covered by the Chamber of Commerce. That conversation with Minister Carr and his staff was to engage and raise awareness of the CSEG and what we do, the membership affected by the downturn, the ideas we have and all the good that the CSEG and the Foundation provides. Minister Carr responded with a letter that is now residing on the CSEG LinkedIn page and invites us all to have the opportunity to express our opinions on climate change. There were also several other links posted on the CSEG LinkedIn site to provide opportunity to have your say on the Trans-Mountain Expansions Pipeline Project and the Federal Fundamental Review of Science Research project by September 30th. I hope you all took the time to educate yourself on these topics and to have your say. Our voices matter!
In September I was invited to speak at the GeoWomen of Calgary lunch time networking event where I spoke about my ICD.D designation course work (Institute of Corporate Directors Designation program – www.icd.ca) and other current events. The talk was well received and I believe the audience was energized by the possibilities for us all in spite of the current challenges.
As I’ve mentioned before the Executives of the CSEG, CSPG, CWLS, CSUR and SPE meet once a month for an early morning meeting at the CSEG office to collaborate on initiatives for the benefit of our membership. We have been very busy over the past year making collaboration a reality by jointly hosting a first ever, Energy Employment Crisis Roundtable discussion on October 6th, 2016. This idea grew into an impressive collaboration of our Canadian professional societies and others such as Higher Landing, the Calgary Economic Development Council and more. It became more impactful than I imagined and more in line with what I hoped. Many of the major Federal, Provincial and Municipal government officials and political party heads were invited along with leading experts and the media to address several themes:
Theme 1 – To present a realistic picture of the realities of the current situation.
Theme 2 – What is currently being done to mitigate this situation?
Theme 3 – What do we believe will be the “new emerging energy industry” in 2018 and beyond? What will it look like and what skill sets will it require?
Theme 4 – Generate specific proposals on what we should be doing.
And finally, some conclusions – It was important to come away with some ideas that show our members, government and the media that we are trying to be as proactive as possible and that we are focused on developing some possible solutions. And we did! The input was documented from all in attendance at the Round-table and subsequent plans are being formulated. I mentioned several times what the CSEG and its members are doing, such as the Mentor/JGF/EPP program, unemployed dues and ESfS, all which represent leadership and vision by the CSEG volunteers. I personally am reaching out to MP’s, MLA’s and more Ministers on behalf of the CSEG. They will know what the CSEG is, what it does currently and what we can do if they didn’t know already. Perhaps the CSEG can even realize some support through all this effort.
The reality is that the oil and gas landscape and the brilliant people that work in this industry are forever changed, and we need to change with it. As one round-table participant said, “If you’re not ready for change, get ready to be irrelevant”. See the CSEG LinkedIn page about the McKinsey report on The oil and gas organization of the future.
The next day after that exciting round-table session I was honored to meet with Stan Magidson, Chair of the ASC (Alberta Securities Commission). Stan and I met while I was enrolled in the ICD.D and he was the CEO of the ICD. Now that Stan has settled into his ASC role, I congratulated him on the challenges he faces and wonderful opportunities for Alberta. We also discussed the steps to be taken for "Comply or Explain" targets for the ASC and its trading company members. See Calgary Herald, Deborah Yedlin articles on the subject at:
- Yedlin: Alberta Securities Commission backs 'comply or explain' — finally (Calgary Herald)
- Yedlin: Alberta companies make slow progress on board diversity (Calgary Herald)
As an ICD.D and ICD member, I also had the opportunity to express my opinion on the Alberta Security Commission’s (ASC) Comply or Explain policy on valuing diversity in Executive Suites and Board of Directors for Alberta companies listed on the TSX. This is for NI 58-101 and form 58-101F1. I have provided my input and spoke again about the value and diversity of the CSEG Board, the Foundation Board and its membership. Note, any TSX-listed company would already be obligated to comply with the amendments by virtue of the OSC overseeing the TSX. The OSC policy went into effect on December 31, 2014. At that time, regulators in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories said then that they'd adopt the policy, while Alberta and PEI had declined and the British Columbia Securities Regulator has said it will observe how the policy works before deciding what it will do.
Change is here for aspects of business in Canada and Alberta and not only in oil and gas. I’d like to suggest to all businesses that women executives and board members statistically improve business performance in all businesses www.catalyst.org/system/files/why_diversity_matters_catalyst_0.pdf. Unfortunately, what we have seen is an increase in unemployment (9% and rising) and an unemployment increase especially for women in the oil and gas sector and in Alberta (see StatsCan employment statistics surveys CANSIM 282-0141, 282-0142 and 282-0087). The remarkable statistics are that Alberta does not consistently capture the unemployment numbers for females who fall under NOC (National Occupation Code) 21 which is for professional occupations in natural and applied sciences. NOC 21 is the parent code for NOC 2113, comprising geoscientists and oceanographers.
I’ve passed this statistics message on to several Members of Parliament for Alberta, Members of Legislative Assembly and am hopeful to engage with our Premier and several Alberta Ministers on behalf of all CSEG members affected by unemployment and to see if Alberta will be more transparent in reporting accurate statistics.
The other reality is that many oil and gas industry professionals and technical experts do want to leave the industry since forced out but they are being denied that opportunity due to prejudice. See the following articles that have involved CSEG members:
- 2 years without a job: Calgary in the downturn (CBC)
- Alberta’s ‘lost generation’: Longest post-war recession leads to brain drain among geoscientists (Financial Post)
- Jobless in Alberta: Tens of thousands of energy professionals are out of work and out of hope (Financial Post)
Some individuals are looking for stability or something else due to their preferences, family situation or another very valid reason. Because of the prejudice that ‘they will return to oil & gas once it rebounds’ the search is met with closed doors. This has been linked to despair, depression, and suicide (see Amanda Knowles' article about Aaron Dobrich in the Oct. 2016 RECORDER).
Again, this industry is forever changed and the opinion that many unemployed oil and gas workers will be able to return to an industry that is projected to be in long-term decline is quite short sighted. We are all much smarter than that. Prejudice in this case is a perceived opinion that is not based on reason for our future. Sign-on contracts, educational or re-educational support (monetary or time off) are other options for those talented professional scientists that want to utilize their transferable skills to other areas.
The CSEG encourages all geoscientists to keep their membership current, stay connected and get involved through volunteering and to continue to build a constructive network. If you are unemployed, take advantage of the CSEG unemployed rate! You never know where networking within the CSEG will lead to for your future.
I would also like to share that APEGA has contacted the Executives of all of the professional societies to engage in a constructive face-to-face conversation with the CEO and other APEGA representatives. Several of the CSEG Executives and members who attended the Energy Employment Crisis Round-table had a chance to speak with Dr. Brad Hayes and George Enyon of the APEGA Council about growing concerns with APEGA and the CSEG and for CSEG members. The economic conditions are impacting all facets of society and losing the connection with geoscience professional licensed members is short sighted and APEGA is responding.
And last but not least are the upcoming CSEG Executive Elections (cseg.ca/members/executive-election). The CSEG has a strong history of having some of the most dedicated volunteers, comparable to no other professional society. The SEG Executives have often asked me and other CSEG Presidents what our secret is. Well, we’re Canadian and we do good things that benefit others! Therefore, support the CSEG, the incoming Executive team and the candidates by voting and paying your dues.
So what is this article really about? Change. And we have to accept what is in front of us that is beyond our control and move forward on what is in our control. This is why I’ve worked so hard for the CSEG on what we can do to influence on what is in our control. There have been many critics of my actions as your President so I will leave you with this:
If I’ve made you mad, good.
If I’ve made you uncomfortable, even better.
If I’ve made you think so that you are now motivated to do something for the benefit of others such as the CSEG and its members, then that is the best gift you could have given me. Thank you.
My Canadian citizenship is something which is precious to me and I will continue to work hard to positively influence where I can for us all in Canada. That is who I am. My Acadian heritage and history holds the motto of, “strength through unity" or "l’union fait la force” and the CSEG is stronger when united. And to quote Rick Mercer, this is “A nation worth ranting about”.
Be kind to one another and let’s work together on a better CSEG with a thriving future.