Commentary, 5/6, 2002

Published Dec 12, 2003
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Aiming High or Low
At an oil & gas conference recently, one of the conference papers cited a quote from Michelangelo: ‘The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that is it too low and we reach it’. Discussing the need for increased funding for research and innovation, the quote might be a helpful contribution.

But when applied to the individuals striving to make their company perform ever better, it might also bee wise to remember that Michelangelo was not a happy man. And he was least happy when he was dangling under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. But the splendour of his work continues to amaze visitors to the chapel. Michelangelo was more than dedicated; he was driven. A force of immense talent drove him to carry on through quarrels and fights with colleagues, laymen and the Pope. Michelangelo knew his work would prevail and be appreciated in the long run, and he was not able to aim low. But he was probably a right pain in the neck to his surroundings!

So maybe the question is not only if we are aiming high or low, but also if we are aiming for now or the future? The fact that Michelangelo’s private life was a failure might be taken as a petty comfort to those who are not able to perform genially at work. It might also be taken as a warning to those who live for their career, and only for their career.

We see all around us people who are taking Michelangelo’s quote seriously, and who are achieving very good results. Those who miss their targets are usually not that visible, except when they are doing it in the capacity of CEO of a listed company.

The question is also if we are aiming for ourselves or for our company. We have recently seen several top executives aiming for very high personal revenue, and in that process jeopardizing the company they are paid to serve, making them a real pain in the neck for all the wrong reasons.

But those who are aiming high on behalf of a company employing hundreds or thousands of people, and who are dedicated to ensure improved results and a sustainable future for that company, are worthy of applause. They are well aware they will be criticized if they fail.

Statoil’s CEO Olav Fjell is one of them. Statoil recently presented their growth ambitions. With a reserve replacement rate of only 0.68 last year, the company needs to raise their aims. Statoil now has a short-term target of getting three operatorships abroad. That is a bold statement, considering the company has strived for an operatorship abroad for years, unsuccessfully.

Furthermore, Statoil is considering acquisitions, ‘but is in no rush,’ according to Fjell. That is also very interesting, as much criticism so far has pointed to the fact that Statoil has missed out on the consolidation that has been going on for a long time within the oil & gas industry.

Hopefully times, and tactics, are right now. The aims certainly seem to be right!

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