A Well-Oiled Engine


Andy Cuthbert 

Houston, Texas, USA


On close examination of any organization, morale is found to underpin the entire value train at every stage; it secures the fabric by which a company is woven.  However, although the topic of morale exists and is acknowledged, oftentimes it is overlooked when assessing the risk of a project, partly because it is a complex subject, that is affected by various and diverse influences, and partly because it can involve an individual or group with different resultant dynamics and not always the sum of individual parts.

Some would venture that morale is so important to the success of a project that assessing its impact should be scrutinized at every stage of the project life-cycle. Without doubt, the health of a company relies heavily on the morale of its employees, but when attempting to define morale it becomes apparent that the complexity belies a single methodology; to address the entire concept takes a multi-facetted approach.  In risk management, morale could be regarded as an ‘uncertainty that matters’ (Hillson, 2010) and when defined as a risk there will be opportunities as well as threats to manage, especially when a project manager inherits a team and does not have the luxury of selecting team members from the outset.

There is no doubt that managing the morale of an organization, complex though it may be, is as important as any other risk that resides in the project. The importance for the project management body to follow a regimen, that adequately addresses the different aspects that constitute the wellbeing of the team’s morale, is axiomatic.

Leadership must provide a clear picture of what the organization is trying to achieve — a vivid description of future goals must be defined and clearly communicated across the organization so people understand the vision and direction. Skills and capabilities must be developed so they can rapidly respond to changing conditions in today’s business environment. An empowered staff will contribute to the creativity and innovation necessary in today’s global marketplace.

Morale Threats

Employee discontentment leads to disengagement and ultimately higher psychological stress levels, taking a huge toll on quality of life, according to a series of studies examining overall life satisfaction. Happier workers have greater motivation, even though they might work in a ‘more stressful’ environment.  A Gallup study (Rath and Harker, Gallup Press, 2010) estimates that 22 million actively disengaged employees cost the American economy as much as $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity including absenteeism, illness and other problems that result when employees are unhappy at work. The nation’s largest employers estimate that unscheduled absenteeism, due to poor morale, costs their businesses more than $760,000 per year in direct payroll costs, and even more when lower productivity, lost revenue, attrition of experienced employees and costs associated with hiring and training replacement staff are taken in to account.

“When employee morale is high, productivity rises. When employee morale is low, it’s hard to retain the best and brightest workers,” says Morgan Norman, founder and CEO of WorkSimple, a social performance management platform.  Even for the most motivated of employees, high worker turnover rate will affect performance of the entire team and has a detrimental effect on morale.


To read entire paper (click here) 

About the Author

flag-usaandy cuthbertflag-ukAndy Cuthbert


Houston, TX, USA

Having graduated from the University of London with a BSc. (Hons) Geology in 1981, Andy went on to complete an MPhil. in Geology before joining the Oil Industry in 1984. He has 30 years of oilfield experience, 10 years with Schlumberger and 20 years with Halliburton.  Amongst the years spent with Halliburton Andy has been involved in projects of ever increasing complexity involving the introduction and coordination of new technology.  Time spent as the Project Coordinator for the BG Group in Tunisia in 1995 was succeeded by Project Management in Norway in a production sharing project and on the Talisman Gyda project in 2004. A move to Malaysia in 2006 saw Andy leave project management to take up a regional management position for operations in Southeast Asia, China, the Indian sub-continent and Australasia.  A year after moving to Houston in 2009 he resumed his role in Halliburton Project Management and has participated in or is currently involved in projects in the USA, Tanzania, Singapore, India and cu in Iraq.  Andy has written or co-authored drilling industry technical papers for the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) on both Directional Drilling and Multilateral Technology and given presentations to the SPE community all over the world.  His main hobbies are rugby union; he is an International Rugby Board (IRB) Level II referee, and cycling, especially for charitable causes.  He currently lives in Houston with his wife and two children.  Andy can be contacted at [email protected].

Halliburton’s corporate website is http://www.halliburton.com/.