Wilson & Associates Monthly Newsletter, August 2016
In Search of the Learning Life
By: John W. Wilson
I came to the oil business thanks to rock and roll. Fresh out of the Navy, after an earlier stint in college ended poorly, I was back in the saddle and in school courtesy of the GI Bill. Needing a little extra cash to feed a young family, I worked at the Houston Chronicle. During the fall I covered high school football and the rest of the time I reviewed rock and roll music. It was a nice gig. Apparently, it got me noticed.
As my collegiate career wound down, I placed my resume with a local manufacturing association. It was seen by the folks in the publication group at Shell who knew my newspaper work, primarily the music reviews. I got called in for an interview, passed, and was offered a job. Those were the days of in-house publications with staffs of writers, photographers, and designers. They were talented. There was an ex-editor from the Philadelphia Enquirer, an AP Bureau Chief from New York, and an artist with pieces in a local gallery. It was fun work, travelling the country, talking to folks, taking pictures, and telling their stories. Over the years, I worked for marketing, the computer center, and finally Exploration & Production.
Eventually, I left Shell for a mid-major, a move that proved it wasn’t always about the money, a hard lesson to learn but one worth having. I soon left for Petroleum Engineer International as the Gulf Coast Editor. It was during my orientation for the magazine that the editor-in-chief, Bruce Bleakley taught me a lesson I’ve always remembered. It was over lunch. We were at his club in Dallas. Part of my new job was to ferret out interesting technical stories and write about them. Bruce gave me some advice to aide me in my search. “John, you’re going to meet a lot of guys who’ll tell you they have thirty years of experience. Your job, will be to determine if they really have thirty years of experience, or if it’s one year of experience thirty times.” It was obvious to me that the former was going to be my best bet at finding something interesting and useful for the magazine. The hard part, as I discovered, was finding the 30-year person.
Through trial and error, I hit upon what seemed to be several reliable indicators. The first was having the ability to listen. And I mean, listen, to take in fully what the other person is saying before replying or acting. It’s harder than it sounds because we’re human, and as soon as someone says something with which we disagree we start formulating a response to correct them. I’ve felt my own brain shut down as I waited for my chance to help the errant individual discover the error of his ways. So, I know how it feels. The 30-year person listens, asks questions, and probes for more information.
A second indicator is an approach-to-life sort of thing. Circling back to my days as a music critic, I think one good self-measuring stick is what sort of music does a person like? Are they still bouncing to a high school beat or do they pay attention to their kids and listen to a bit of their music? Do they rag on country in favor of rock, or vice versa? Do they look to the past or live in the present? Tough questions. But it’s easy to get stuck in the trap of the same old thing. It’s comfortable. We know what we know. No one can shake us.
Finally, there’s the question of how they embrace technology. Do they just use it because they know they should, or do they use it and understand why they’re using it? Do they know what came before the tool, why it was used, and why this tool replaced it? Do they use Excel as a multi-purpose tool like a teenager using a crescent wrench to fix their car? Or, do they look for collaborative tools that will expand the reach and scope of their work and ultimately make their business flow better? That understanding and approach is what comes with 30 years of learning.
The final two points can be summed up in the question, how resistant is a person to change? The one-year person tends to be a little intransigent, glories in their knowledge, and is completely happy with the way they’ve always done things. Where this is heading is that the 30-year folks know there’s a lot they don’t know. And they know this because they’ve spent a career learning, and piecing together bits of knowledge to try and form a more perfect picture of the world in which they live and work, knowing that at any point an unexpected gap could appear and surprise to ill affect.
My own quest to be a 30-year person has been fraught with difficulty. Over my career there have been numerous occasions when I would find myself locking in to a position and feeling the urge to defend it. I remember on one project recommending that we insert illustrations and pictures at the end of the procedure. I had good reasons to do so, and the team went along with it. Later, however, new team members came in and wanted to put their pictures within the program, closer to the action being described. I defended the set course, although as I figured out later, it really wouldn’t have mattered to do what the team asked.
A similar thing happened with SharePoint. I pretty quickly grasped the perceived benefits of using it as a collaborative tool, and I had the hardest time understanding why other people couldn’t see the light. Then it dawned on me that I was operating under a top down paradigm. I assumed if the company bought it people would use it. The truth was more complicated. A tool, no matter how useful, has a complicated calculation people use to evaluate it. They factor in how long it will take to learn, how well it works once they learn it, and how much time it is really saving them. The bottom line is simple. It has to be sold and be a better option by a large margin over what they’re currently doing.
In general I feel as though I’ve done a fair job of being a learning person. But I also realize that thinking you are, is one those counter-intuitive traps. Smugness will come back to bite you every time. Luckily, I’ve met a lot of 30-year people over the course of my career, and whenever I get to thinking I know it all, I think about them and how they would approach things and it brings me down to earth.
By: Gabe Wilson and Bonnie Bryan Denham
Effective communication is the cornerstone to all organizational processes. It takes on increasing importance the more technical the nature of the message. Take a drilling program, for example. Producing this type of document requires several stakeholders with varying levels of skill, expertise, and authority. These contributors will conduct multiple meetings, manage a variety of side projects, and utilize many different types of media formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, SharePoint, AutoCAD, and a host of other programs. All of these people, using all of these tools, are striving to create a “message” that needs to be communicated to other team members.
It’s easy to see how managing this level of complexity is difficult and may make it hard for the team’s message to come through as clearly as it should or they desire; there is a myriad of potential problems. Writers will be at varying skill levels. The wrong people will attend, or the right people may not attend, important meetings. Tiny details will be overlooked. A dysfunctional folder structure may result in the wrong version being used on the rig, or inefficient channels such as e-mail may be used to transfer files and result in missed updates, incorrect information, or even multiple versions of files. Without planning, inefficiency is inevitable with the likelihood that some portion of the desired results will be lost. And, as in the game of telephone (where a word is whispered from one person to another around a circle until the original sender confirms (and usually denies) the accuracy of the returned word form the final receiver), the document created may end up communicating something entirely different than the original plan.
To identify inefficiencies and to ensure that your communication delivers the intended message, it’s useful to start with a model and then scale upward as the situation dictates. The Shannon-Weaver Communication Model is such a model. It was originally a mathematical model used in digital communication that was then applied to personal communication. It is most commonly used to describe interpersonal communication, but with a little explanation can be applied to organizational teams. The explanation below should get you thinking about a wide variety of issues for further investigation. In subsequent articles we will cover topics as they apply to your organization and help you dig into those issues. But first, let’s cover the basics of the model.
Add notes to an email in Outlook
If you get a lot of email (and who doesn’t these days?), it can be hard to keep track of things like whether or not you responded, what was said, are you waiting on a response, do you have more to do?
Here is a handy Tip & Trick for helping your brain make the transition across the weekend from Friday to Monday.
Tip: Outlook has a nice feature that will let you write notes on emails in your inbox (or any email). It can be found on the ribbon under the Move section.
Trick: First, double-click on the email that you want to add notes to so that it opens up outside of the preview window and into a window of its own.
Under the Move section of the ribbon, you will see a button that says Actions.
Click the drop-down that appears to the right of the button, and select Edit Message.
Now you can start typing notes anywhere in the email. It’s helpful to use a different color font or even highlight your notes to help them stand out from the original message. This can be done by clicking the Format Text tab at the top of the email.
When you’re done, just click Save and close.
Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.
Field Shading in MS Word
In MS Word, “fields” are often used for things like figure and table captions, cross-references, document information like dates and revision numbers, and even the table of contents. The purpose of these fields is to help add efficiency in documents. This efficiency can break down, however, when you type over the fields, thus deleting them.
Oftentimes this is not done on purpose. Who doesn’t like efficiency? This could come about from not even knowing that a field is present. The presence of a field in a document is indicated by what looks like gray highlighting.
If you’ve never seen this, let’s make sure you’re not accidentally missing out.
Tip: Make sure you have your field shading set to “Always.”
Trick: In your MS Word document, click File > Options > Advanced, and scroll down to the “Show document content” section.
Where it says “Field shading:” click the drop-down and select “Always.”
Now go back to your document and see if there are any fields present that you need to be aware of.
Check out our future newsletters for Tips & Tricks on adding efficiency to your documents by inserting fields. The July newsletter covered inserting a Table of Contents and can be found in the online archive on our website.