Engineering new ideas

​​​​​How can Engineering respond to a rapidly changing business environment?  

Today’s world demands agility while simultaneously handling disruptive technology and enhancing and managing integrity of existing assets. And there’s also the need to enable our engineers so they can implement alternative ideas and new ways of thinking to lead to step change in value.

A desire to drive such step-change improvements was behind a bold initiative that attracted 25 volunteers from across Engineering in Q1. Its wider goals included enabling and empowering those in Engineering to recognise that good ideas will be embraced by the function’s leadership team.

Most impressively, it went from go to whoa in little more than one month, drawing input from Woodside senior leaders and leveraging existing tools and innovation hubs. Driven by Scott Marshall, the then operational technology team lead (and now adviser to the senior vice president of the Australia Operating Unit), the initiators included vice president innovation capability Brian Haggerty and Engineering functional business manager Ivan Jordan.

Volunteers were sought among the Engineering function, and 25 responded. They attended workshops on three consecutive Wednesdays after work at the University of WA and Curtin University innovation hubs. “Brian and I followed the hackathon model already championed and proven by our technology function as we knew this was a great way for teams to develop innovative ideas,” explains Scott.

Brian provided the role of innovation coach and mentor to the group. A competitive element and short time frames are drawn from the successful hackathon format. The result? Eighty ideas in Week One.

The following week, senior vice president and chief technology officer Shaun Gregory and floating systems lead Steve Pegrum from Browse were brought in to offer different perspectives on delivering innovation and the technology demands from new projects.

A shortlist of five ideas was selected and a pitching coach invited to instruct how to present and pitch business ideas. As Brian explains: “We were eager to include a training element to the experience.” The group was the offered a chance to get behind the idea that each individual felt most passionate about and given two weeks to develop and pitch their ideas.

Posters included augmented reality and artificial intelligence; targeted problem-solving; capabilities and setting up skillpools to handle things of the future like robotics; collaboration and how best Engineering could collaborate with Projects and Technology; and the fifth promoted evolving how engineers are perceived “from Engineering to ingenuity”.

Scott says the decision to run the program in January was deliberate because the results could feed directly into the Engineering functional planning process in March. In late February, the ideas were pitched to a panel which included new vice president Engineering Menno Weustink.

“This was a great pilot program to test how Engineering considers our customers’ needs and the way we work tomorrow,” says Menno. “I look forward to seeing these ideas develop.”

Scott hopes that such an initiative becomes a common activity across Engineering. Ivan notes the fact that it wasn’t a “top down” initiative was important, as was the fact participation was purely voluntary. “It shows people have pride in their function and it shows people are enabled to do things,” he says.

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Trunkline Q1 2018​​