Peter Bennett, CEO and Managing Director, Clough
The final piece in Australia’s remarkable LNG growth story has now been secured into place, with the Ichthys Venturer’s successful mooring offshore Western Australia. During the boom, there has been intense focus on cost-overruns and schedule blow-outs. These issues will likely become required reading for MBA programs and Project Management courses in the coming years. Also, their study will likely see many detailed and innovative solutions for preventing them in the future.
I’d like to take this opportunity to propose my own solution. Innovation. But different innovation. There is an inconsistency in the way people see innovation. Often, we see innovation as new products or services, based on cutting-edge technology. But an alternative approach to innovation is an age-old business tradition. Customer focused innovation; creating and delivering services to delight our customers.
Delighting your customers remains as one of the oldest questions in business, any business. Textbooks abound with 2x2 frameworks assessing individual needs and their importance to customer. But I look at delighting customers from another perspective. Searching for the things that people curse about and fixing them. These needs are rarely intuitive and a customer’s problem may not be something you believe you can control.
It takes smart and committed people to search for a solution, even when you didn’t believe one exists. While this may seem simplistic, when you know where the real pain points are you can develop a unique value proposition to deliver the solution.
Success comes from being a values driven company, with dedicated staff, all working together, prepared to go above and beyond to ensure success.
Our clients have been under great pressure to start up their projects safely, and start paying back their large investments.
Understanding your client’s pressures on a large project is essential to delivering success for them. It takes a real commitment to them. Often putting their needs before your own. Without this mentality, you lose the chance to build a win/win relationship with your client.
When your client’s goals must become your own, a holistic approach can take place. Major events often need extensive preparations. These preparations take place over many months, sometimes years. Also, they need extensive collaboration between contractors, over several countries, languages and cultures.
Delivering critical elements, such as a Floating, Storage, Production and Offloading Vessel, or Central Processing Facility, safely, ahead of schedule, and to within outstanding tolerance to specifications, could only happen through relentless client focus.
Productivity and Performance
Offshore construction is not an easy gig. Constructing and commissioning the world’s most complex structures in an onshore environment is tough. Achieving this when you’re many kilometres offshore is another level all together.
The answer to these challenges has always been and will always be people and systems.
Having great people is one thing, having great systems is another. But having great people and great systems is something everyone aspires too.
The results both people and systems deliver flow through into productivity and performance. With people going the extra mile, knowing the systems are there to back them up, ensuring they deliver work with outstanding quality.
When a project starts running ahead of schedule it presents unique challenges. You need new project teams, working earlier, ramp-ups in people occur on very short notice, and people need to be brought onto the project without impacting the positive culture you’ve built.
It would be easy to take the foot off the gas, avoiding the difficult work. But that goes against everything described above. The simple answer lies in doing the right thing. If this means having to ramp up with many, many more people in a very short time, then so-be-it.
Only a strong culture can allow this. Clough subsidiary e2o, who assist in performing hook-up and commissioning work, use recruitment advertising sparingly. Instead they rely on known high performing employees to identify great people who fit, and add to, the existing culture. Trusting people to perform straight away is hard. When you trust the people you already have it makes it much easier to trust the people they bring on board.
To deliver for your clients you must commit to them at every step in the journey. Anything less and they’ll see straight through you. Putting them at the centre of your business isn’t new ground, yet in challenging times it often takes a back seat. Rather short-term performance becomes the goal. This mentality lays foundations for disaster, you rely more on your reputation and prior success, until new competitors emerge putting pressure on your prices and margins. These pressures, which can derail companies, often go unnoticed until it’s too late.
The only way to avoid this situation is to relentlessly focus on creating value for your client’s, delivering specific solutions to their specific needs, even if they didn’t know they had those needs. This orientation requires committed investment in people, systems, and innovation. Allowing you to provide better value to your customers, which over the long-term they will recognise.