August 2014, Vol. 241, No. 8


How Innovative Pipeline Design Inspires Organizational Culture

Mike Thomas, pipeline inspector, Tulsa, OK

Innovation is the idea formed by the thoughts of pipeline managers and the rigorous discipline exemplified within each individual pipeline company and contractor. Immediate challenges faced every day allow companies to transform each new challenge to inspire innovation in microspaces between each pipeline organization.

The problem is that little is known about the design process cycles needed to recognize the inspiration, ideation and implementation involved in transforming pipeline organizations. The organizational structure is set up to realize solutions through how the pipeline culture chooses to innovate.

“Results! Why man, I have gotten results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

A learn-to-fail approach will quickly increase productivity because failure is the birth of innovation. Just remember to fail quickly and move on while learning from the failures of others as well. Remember, the ability to improve is nothing more than keeping your spirits up. There is nothing more stifling to the employee than seeing the leader in a depressed situation. If you maintain a positive attitude and communicate, everything will work out.

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller

The perception of pipeline organizations and innovation is now important more than ever because of the oil and natural gas boom. The pipeline industry will discover new choices and rethink its expanded range of options, such as beginning to balance the pipeline paradigm beyond the boom and address the needed changes. The organizational structure will balance during the developing of a pipeline culture built on a human-centered approach.

A pipeline paradigm shift is beginning to create a rush for riches to boom cities and town life in various locations across the United States. The lure of the Obama administration converting more support for natural gas exploration requires the industry to meet the pipeline boom with an organizational culture built on properly trained and qualified employees, right down to the smallest task.

“It has taken a long time for organizations in the oil patch to realize the potential the pipeliner contributes to construction,” said Gerald Thomas, an oil field roughneck. “It is not just pipeline cats installing the arteries of the pipeline anymore; we are qualified and trained professionals who perform the most grueling tasks in the oil patch and when we are gone, who will do it?”

The evolution in pipeline design thinking has begun and will challenge the skills of each pipeline contractor to inspire solutions to stimulate positive change and promote healthy industry standards.

The pipeline innovation paradigm shift will follow the macro-attempt to connect organizations through identifying organizational barriers. The flexibility needed to set free the stored-up inspiration within each employee will increase company productivity.

Design thinking must have a starting point to allow a shift to occur. As a general rule, experiment and look at all possibilities to organize the entire environment with the right people on each side of the pipe. Keep your team properly trained and qualified.

The lack of identification with design-process cycles is creating a need to develop a better understanding of communication barriers between various organizational structures. The manager will be a key player in the recognition of inspiration, ideation and implementation.

The pipeline organizational infrastructure, complete with properly trained employees, will increase ingenuity and drive curiosity, while boosting economic development.

“Many companies think you can continue to operate the same and expect different or improved results. Most of those companies are no longer in business or headed down that path,” said Brandon Boyd, of Tulsa, OK-based pipeline joining company Mathey Dearman. “Companies in today’s business world must have the foresight to look to the future and identify needs and/or improvements, as well as the courage to invest in the implementation of this forward thinking.”

The availability of jobs, training and better salaries have contributed to the demand for innovation down to the hand tools each pipeline company has to choose from, he added. The transfer of technology applications developed within each pipeline organization is the key to support positive innovation, while providing a shift toward customizing assorted pipeline operational methodologies.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s it was just the opposite because all it took was a strong back and an eagerness to work. A macro-effect on the energy sector is well-known to change lives and create economic development.

The industry’s aspiration to change depends solely on the appetite and emotional intelligence of the pipeline leader. This is why the pipeliner must decide if change is needed and whether the rift caused by changing is actually going to benefit the organizational environment.

Knowledge of the pipeliner and ability to control the direction of change will lead to results. Do not let organizational complacency be the reason innovation diminishes. Competent leadership is a solution to inspire innovation and promote a healthy organizational buzz within the industry, allowing a shift toward a structure that inspires organizational culture change through innovation.

Pipeline change by design is about bringing life back into the pipeline infrastructure through pipeline design thinking processes. The organizational structure transformations will inspire through innovative challenges, flexibility, aligning perceptions and adjustment. The industry is structured to realize solutions based on how the pipeline culture chooses to innovate and transforms responsibility into an environment built on a solid empirical foundation.

Author: Mike Thomas is a pipeline inspector in northeast Oklahoma and has over 16 years of pipelining experience. His expertise includes pipeline safety and integrity, and he is a doctorate of management candidate at the University of Phoenix in organizational leadership. Thomas may be reached at


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