High Performance Now, Groundwork for Future Successes

The Work

A global oil and gas company had contracted with one of the world’s largest drilling contractors to build two state-of-the-art drill ships at a cost of nearly $670 million each. It was the type of project that typically faces numerous challenges, with an international project team of diverse specialized contractors and third-party vendors. There were different working cultures, language barriers, various “ways of working,” and competing priorities. Safety, quality, and schedule obligations were also paramount.

In addition, the ships would house new equipment that in some cases had never been built before. Although the shipyard had extensive experience building the “bottom half” of the vessel ordered, they did not have experience installing drilling equipment on the top half of the ship.

Contractually, the client company had no legal ability to direct the vendors, but knew that if they could create a compelling culture for all involved, they could ensure the success of this and future operations.

In a unique approach, the company asked JMW to help support the success of all parties, from the operator to contractors and third-party vendors. JMW designed an 18-month team-building and alignment engagement to: (1) create and maintain a high-performance team and work culture to ensure the team’s capacity to handle the challenges ahead; and (2) establish a model for future projects, ensuring that all phases of the work reflected the values and principles of the operator.

JMW first conducted an assessment, speaking with participants about what was predictable in this type of effort, what might allow for something extraordinary to occur, and what would enable competitors to operate collaboratively. Armed with these insights, JMW and the client identified a “core team” of individuals across companies. The core team was charged with ensuring that people were working collaboratively, that there was no finger-pointing, and that the culture was one of high performance and success. The team held bi-weekly calls and quarterly face-to-face meetings, all facilitated to further align participants and equip them to resolve issues together and deliver exceptional results.

Throughout the engagement, the work involved a combination of project-wide interviews and assessments at critical junctures, team building, leadership and management training, facilitation of key conversations, and one-on-one coaching for key players. Another key aspect of the work entailed bi-weekly service partner calls to review progress, share concerns, and collaborate on solutions as issues arose.

With a common vision, high levels of alignment, and a shared sense of ownership:

  • The first ship was delivered on time and according to specification, using processes that could be replicated in the future, including construction of the second ship.
  • The operator, contractors, and vendors all attributed their success to a unity of purpose, alignment of commitments, and coordinated action among people across companies and across different regions of the world.
  • The initial drilling operations of the first drill ship were completed with best-in-class mechanical reliability and ahead of schedule.
  • In the ship-building process and first well operations, the team delivered on aggressive safety performance goals.

Innovation in leadership: no more silos
Contractors and third-party vendors often work in silos with limited communications and collaboration. With support from JMW, the project team embraced differences and cultural diversity, working together to resolve any issues.

To deal with the challenge of working with new, untested equipment and technology, contractors and vendors adopted a collective attitude of owning the whole and supporting each others’ success, working together to resolve issues with minimal delays.

Early and increased participation from senior management and third-party vendors allowed for greater understanding of the work, resulting in a smooth transition from installation to operations, and reduced downtime during start-up and operations.

With a shift to a partnering culture: new processes for real-time and future success
The engagement resulted in a culture shift, with immediate benefits, as well as the creation of an approach and processes that would serve the team and all involved for years to come.

The project team demonstrated a new level of partnership characterized by commitment to shared performance objectives. The client began referring to contractors and third-party vendors as “service partners,” a shift that ultimately enhanced the way they interacted.

Service partners were encouraged to have a say and leverage their expertise to offer recommendations, establish new processes to avoid past challenges, and provide solutions for any difficulties.

Lessons learned in construction of the first ship were captured, compiled, and used to make improvements in processes as the team began building the second ship.


In the words of those involved in the project:

In a high-stakes, multi-national project with numerous inherent challenges, this project
team transformed its ways of working
together and delivered on a combination of mission-critical deadlines, ground-breaking technical specifications, and vital safety performance requirements.


As a company we say we want to partner with our vendors; this was the first time I truly felt like we were real partners.


“The work JMW did with the team brought value—much of it intangible. The tools they brought to the team were useful and I still use them.”

Case study PDF available upon request.  Please contact Jamie Tiska.