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Leading Change From the Learning Function at KNPC

By and

Tue Oct 02 2018

Leading Change From the Learning Function at KNPC
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The oil industry has been gripped by lots of change lately. Environmental regulations, climate change concerns, and technological advances in green energy applications are changing reality for oil refiners. To survive and thrive, they must embrace change to improve operational efficiency and sustainability.

At Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), the state-owned oil refiner, change has begun. We are changing the learning function, where the top line and bottom line converge.

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Growth in both revenue and productivity requires learning at every level of the organization. In most cases, financial gaps are underpinned by learning gaps. Leading change from the learning function aims at closing learning gaps that, left unaddressed, translate into financial gaps on both sides of the ledger. It involves transforming the organization into an active player in solving business problems. Such a transformation is unfolding in three stages:

1. Listen and learn.

2. Focus and fulfill.

3. Measure and mend.

Listen and Learn

To close learning gaps, the learning function must actively engage the business units to:

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  • Understand the big picture of the work they do, the results they produce, and the business needs they aim to satisfy.

  • Understand the critical business problems they face and how they can be solved.

To do that, the learning function must understand the business, from manufacturing to marketing, from sourcing raw materials to signing sales contracts. Working with in-house SMEs, we have developed a curriculum for L&D analysts to cover the fundamentals—the core building blocks of the refining process systems, equipment, economics, and end-user markets.

We have also developed a learning partner model that involves embedding L&D analysts into key business units to work closely with unit members to:

  • Capture lessons learned from normal operations and accidents.

  • Identify and prioritize learning solutions.

Focus and Fulfill

To ensure judicious use of limited resources, we had to focus on the strategic pain points—those areas where there is much potential to unlock, where small improvements can yield substantial gains. At KNPC, unplanned shutdowns reducing operational availability top the list of strategic pain points.

Behind every unplanned shutdown event lies a failure of some sort. Looking at field data, we have set out to initiate a discussion on what causes failure, from internal weaknesses to external triggers. We are involving operations, maintenance, and other business teams in the discussion and drawing on the expertise of technology licensors, equipment manufacturers, and other supply chain partners.

Because problems and failure patterns tend to repeat themselves across industry boundaries, the L&D organization is evaluating problem-solving frameworks from different domains that could be adapted for use in the oil refining business. As a result, we are making improvements to our structured on-the-job training programs for field engineers, and we have designed a process for converting operators’ and technicians’ observations and insights into employee-generated content for training operators to ensure that mistakes that had led to failures would not be repeated.

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Measure and Mend

We are allocating funds based on need and impact, not headcount, tracking dollars spent on knowledge and skills areas (competencies) critical to our business needs and learning gaps. We are instituting a new set of accounting controls to help us reassess our assumptions and see where we need to redeploy people and resources to guide our decision-making process on investing in new capabilities and channels.

As the world gets smaller and more dynamic and industry boundaries get blurred, the learning function must play offense, become a champion for change, to spur idea generation within your organization and bring in new ideas from other industries to examine and develop. In today’s knowledge-based economy, an organization’s top line and bottom line depend on the strength of the learning function. This is why we are transforming the learning function at KNPC.

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