Meet Bobbie

I’d love for you to meet Bobbie.

If you’d like to hear her whole story, take a look at Beyond The Spreadsheet.

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It was raining outside, her coffee had gone cold and her so-called friend was laughing at her: Bobbie’s day just wasn’t getting any better. 

“I need more coffee,” she announced and headed to the counter. “You can get your own,” she shot over her shoulder at Jim who was still giggling to himself.

‘This isn’t that funny,’ she thought. ‘Is it…?’

At least Jim had stopped giggling by the time she returned and sat down but she couldn’t help glaring at him still. He raised his hands in surrender but was still smiling.

“Listen,” he said. “You know I’m your biggest fan, right?”

“I thought you did up until about ten minutes ago.” She shot back at her old boss.

He lowered his hands, still smiling but looking a little more serious.

“Come on, Bobbi,e do you really think I’m laughing at you? This is classic Xavier. That’s what’s got me laughing like a drain. I’m just glad that the new hot-shot HSE manager’s going to have to deal with this instead of me, now that I’m retired and everything.”

I’m the new HSE manager,” she responded through gritted teeth.

“Like I said,” he grinned, “A real hot-shot.”

Jim leaned forward, looking dead serious now.

“Look, Bobbie, you’re all over this. Do you think I was going to retire and recommend that you take over just to make you feel good? Of course not! You’d picked up everything that I knew in your first couple of years and you were way ahead of me long before it was time for me to step aside. So yeah, you are a hot-shot but in a good way.”

He paused for a sip of coffee and grimaced. 

“Urgh! This is awful. Let me freshen this up and let’s talk seriously about what’s on your mind.”

Once Jim was back and settled, Bobbie recounted the meeting she had had with Xavier, the firm’s owner, that morning.

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Today is going to be a good day,’ Bobbie thought to herself as she pulled into the parking lot outside the XYZ Co offices. She could see people setting up in the fabrication yard and there were already the flashes of welding coming from inside the main shop. The new contract for one of the oil majors was just getting underway and everyone was excited about the opportunity to deploy their new deepwater technology on such a large scale. As HSE manager for XYZ Co, the contract wasn’t as important to her as the opportunity to show off their systems when the client’s HSE team came around later that day.

By noon, she was back at her desk, visit over and able to start to clear the email that had mounted up that morning but even a full inbox couldn’t damper her spirits. The HSE team had been impressed with the XYZ Co safety set-up and had described it as one of the best they’d seen. 

‘A good day indeed,’ she thought. ‘I should tell Jim. He’d get a kick out of hearing that kind of praise.’

As she cleared the backlog of mail, she noticed a message pop up from Debbie, the CEO’s PA, asking if she could meet Xavier at short notice to discuss something “urgent”.

No problem!’ she replied with a smily face at the end: Xavier was a great boss but he did have a habit of derailing everyone’s projects with his new ideas. Bobbie knew that this “urgent” project would probably be forgotten by the weekend but she was still curious about what the CEO had on his mind. She was looking for a new project to get her teeth into.

Half an hour later she checked in with Debbie and chatted for a few minutes before heading into Xavier’s office. Having been there for only five years, Bobbi was still something of a ‘new’ employee relatively speaking: most other employees had been there for 10 years or more and Debbie had been there since the beginning, keeping everything running as a mix of PA to the CEO, Drill Sergent and big sister.

“He’s in a very good mood,” she told Bobbie, “but I have no idea what today’s big idea is. Good luck!” 

As soon as Bobbie entered Xavier’s office, he jumped out of his seat.

“There she is! The best HSE manager they’ve ever seen!”

He came around his desk and stuck out his hand.

“Great work Bobbie,” Xavier said as he shook her hand. “That’s praise indeed from those guys. They are sticklers for the rules. You did us proud today.”

He waved her into a seat as he sat back down.

“Thanks Boss,” she started, “but you know it wasn’t just me. Everyone pulled together to get those systems in place and  Jim left things in good shape.”

“Jim!?! That old bum? You’ve been running the HSE shop for years – this is your work. Nothing to do with that antique.”

They both grinned as he abused her former boss who also happened to be one of Xavier’s oldest friends and Debbie’s husband.

Xavier leaned in and looked at her seriously.

“Listen Bobbie, I’m serious. Today’s visit was a big deal and we came out of it with flying colors. A big part of that was your doing so thank you. I know we all play a part in safety but you’ve done amazing work here keeping us safe and making us more effective. I don’t know if we would have landed this contract without your input. So thank you.”

“Thanks Xavier, that means a lot,” she replied. “Anyway, was that what was so urgent? Telling me how great I am.”

Xavier smiled. “Well, that is important but that’s not the urgent thing.”

He leaned back and launched into his story.  

“So here’s the deal, Bobbie.  After we completed the tour, I was shooting the breeze with Frank, the head of the inspection team. We worked together years ago offshore and we were busy telling each other how old we looked.”

“Anyway, we got a bit more serious and were discussing the industry and at one point and asked me what kept me up at night.  Well, that stumped me a bit, as I have to confess I sleep pretty well when my back’s not bothering me, so I just replied that the Texans starting line-up always causes me some anxiety and we had a good laugh.”  

“But here’s the thing Bobbie, I’m getting asked this kind of question more and more. I have a good handle on the day to day in the plant and the financials but things are moving pretty fast in the business. The technology is changing faster than I can keep up sometimes, we have the facility in Janwick now and we seem to have different export regulations every couple of years. 

“I think we need to have a better handle on our risks.  I think we manage things pretty well on a day-to-day basis and are good at firefighting when things go wrong but I think we need to formalize this a bit.”

He planted his elbows on the desk, looking her right in the eye.

“So what do you say, can you put together a risk assessment of the business for me? I’d like to have something to discuss at the next Board meeting at the end of the month.” 

After a bit more discussion, Bobbie headed back to her office knowing three things about the project: she has to conduct a risk assessment, she has three weeks to do it and she has no idea what that entails….

– – – – –

Jim let out a low whistle when she was done retelling the earlier part of her day and sat quietly for a moment.

Suddenly, he gave a big grin.

“Great work, kid. I’m super proud of you. No, don’t interrupt. Those guys kicked my ass the last time they came around. It was just before you started and they gave me a hard time saying that we were ‘adequate’ but they had some concerns in the long term about our ability to handle a complex contract. We didn’t lose that contract because of HSE but I know I certainly didn’t help.”

“Ok, so let’s get back to what’s on your mind. He wants a risk assessment of the whole business by the end of the month? Well, that is a big lift I guess. But you’ve done assessments before. What’s the big deal?”

Bobbie sighed.

“Jim, this is an assessment of the whole business. HSE, operations, marketing, finance, supply chain. You name it, he wants it covered. That’s huge. Plus, what do I know about our marketing or supply chain? I don’t touch that stuff.”

Jim thought for a while until he gave a sly smile.

“That’s the point, I think. Xavier wants someone who knows the firm but doesn’t get involved in the business to do the assessment. Think about it. Who else could do this who can be objective? Your portfolio is audited to death and you’ve passed with flying colors so there’s not going to be any surprises there. But what about our financial risks or things we need to think about in Janwick? Who else could review that without being biased?”

He paused before continuing.

“Plus Xavier know you are all about systems and processes. Honestly, I don’t think anyone else could do this.”

“But I don’t know where to start.” She replied in frustration. “And why three weeks? That’s insanely fast.”

Jim looked at her fondly.

“It’s fast for you, Bobbie, but Xav’s been around a long time. We started this business in the 70s, before you were even born. By our age, you get to understand that it’s best to get things done sooner rather than later.”

“Plus, this is a good thing” he continued with a big grin. “The old goat won’t have time to get distracted by something else in the meantime. If it was due in three months, you’d be on your fourth “urgent” project before you finished this one. You know what he’s like.”

“So, you know this isn’t my area of expertise but I do have one thing you don’t have.”

“An AARP card?” she asked, sweetly.

“It’s a good thing we don’t still work together,” he replied with mock severity, “that’s age-based hostility and I’d have to report you to HR.”

“No,” he continued, “I have time. So let me know what I can do to help. Frankly, I’m bored out my mind when I’m not minding the grandkids and I fancy a little project. Just don’t let Xavier know – he’ll try to pull me in with some consultant nonsense. Let me help you build the process in the background but the actual assessment is up to you. Deal?”

“Deal,” she replied stretching out her hand.

“Great,” he said as he shook her hand. “Now, let’s get some more coffee and work out what it is we need to work out.”

– – – – –

If you want to hear more of Bobbie’s story – or if it sounds familiar and you’re curious about how she tackles her risk assessment – it’s all in the Risk Assessment Toolkit. Learn more here.

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