CfL & DONG developed the ultimate leadership training for offshore CoReps

Good leadership, efficiency and safety are inextricably linked, says Senior Director Eigil Hannestad of Well Constructions, a division of DONG Exploration & Production.

Company representatives, company men, or just CoReps: DONG Energy's representatives on drilling rigs and ships in the North Sea have many names, but they are all leaders without staff responsibilities. Yet they play an extremely important leadership role in relation to the main contractor and subcontractor’s many employees. The CoReps are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety and efficiency of the safety-critical jobs in the North Sea.

Top grades

DONG and CfL collaborated in the development of a training programme to support the representatives’ role as leaders without staff responsibilities and DONG’s standards for efficient and safe leadership of its offshore operations. In 2012, CfL conducted three courses for DONG’s CoReps.

Eigil Hannestad, head of drilling activities at Well Constructions, a division of DONG E&P, on the results of the collaboration with CfL: “On a scale of 1 to 10, we’re up there at a 9 or 10 when it comes to the training course. In fact, the course has been made mandatory as of 2013 for all of our CoReps. The most efficient operations are also the safest. It’s a matter of people planning and communicating well and knowing where they stand. Then everything blends together in a very satisfactory and productive way. Good leadership, efficiency and safety are inextricably linked,” says Hannestad.

He stresses that although the training programme is tailored to DONG’s purposes, it could undoubtedly be used in the training of leaders in other industries.

The accident

Eigil Hannestad had already been on the outlook for the right leadership development course for his CoReps when, in November 2009, a British citizen died in an accident on the Maersk Resolute drilling rig, operated by DONG E&P. “When an incident occurs, we examine what transpired. We typically find that the problem is in the interaction between us as the operator and all of the subcontractors, who are contracted through DONG but are a part of the rig owner’s work processes and safety systems at sea. Getting communication to function between all of these parties is quite difficult. This is often where we see confusion, as the chain of command is sometimes unclear,” says Hannestad.

The meeting with CfL

The first thing DONG did after the accident was to draw up CoReps Ground Rules, outlining the culture that the company’s management wants CoReps to act according to. But in Hannestad’s words, those types of written rules have a way of ending up in a folder on the shelf. “We set out to design a specific training programme for CoReps. In this process, we explored the training course market to find what we needed. Instead, we found CfL, the development programme ‘Prologue for leaders without staff responsibilities’, the author of the leadership book ‘Unplugged’, chief consultant Ulrik Ramsing and his colleagues. At CfL, we found exactly what we were looking for and we felt that together we could develop the training programme we envisioned.”

DONG and CfL then spent much of 2011 designing the training programme; in this process, DONG brought some of their CoReps and operational staff together with CfL’s team.

Training rig

The result is an 11-day development course divided into three modules. To create the best possible and most realistic training conditions, DONG is renting the “Ullrigg” drilling rig at Stavanger for use in one of the training modules. Professional actors are also hired to play the counterpart in role-play exercises, enabling participants to test their new leadership tools from the training. Participants also have the opportunity to practice situations they had previously experienced and would have handled differently based on the new knowledge they gain during the course. “The feedback we received on the programme clearly shows that a key part of the training success was the fact that we went the extra mile and spent extra resources on the drilling rig and actors,” says Eigil Hannestad.


DONG and CfL have agreed on the fourth training course in 2013. CfL also developed a concentrated training programme for the managers of all DONG’s CoReps, who typically work onshore. “This ensures that everyone understands the language and focus of the CoReps,” says Eigil Hannestad.

To ensure retention of the leadership tools, the training programme also includes a network where CoReps meet three times a year to discuss their experiences with the leadership tools in their work. After completing the training programme, participants also have the opportunity to receive coaching on the rigs or ships. In this coaching, CfL consultants follow the CoRep and together they assess the use of the tools acquired in the training course.

If offshore coaching is not possible, “fallback” coaching is available remotely via the iPads that all participants receive and use as a part of the programme. In addition to video telephony, the iPads are used for educational processes. They contain underlying reference materials to supplement the programme’s physical playing cards, which provide a visual summary of the Ground Rules and applicable leadership tools.