I am very resourceful, as any woman would be. - Valentina Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut, born 1937 (first woman in space, Vostok 6, 16 June 1963)

What is a Shakedown Cruise?

Learning is not compulsory ... neither is survival. - W. Edwards Deming, American engineer, 1900-1993 (His management practices revived Japan.)

For those unfamiliar, a “shakedown cruise,” also known as a sea trial, is performed to test a ship’s operational systems, both mechanical and human. I became painfully aware of the term “shakedown” when I went on my first trip to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base operated by the Boy Scouts in northern Minnesota in 1974. The guides had us (literally) dump everything out of our travel bags and then selected only the essential items we could take. Weight was at a premium, and, if I may confess, I did lie a little about my age. The minimum age was 12, and I turned 12 during the trip, but it was a brutal physical experience for us. We were left with a compass, a few utensils for eating, a sleeping bag, and one change of clothes. I actually recall drinking, eating, and cooking out of a single stainless steel cup. Bluntly, I don’t think I have ever been colder, hungrier, or more tired in my life. But, of course, the guides were correct. You only need the essentials to survive.

Many of you are probably thinking, “I’ll bet I know where he is going with this …,” and you are right. As individuals and as an industry, we need to focus on the essentials. Our industry is on a shakedown cruise like no other in our history. We must jettison the nonessentials and test the machinery (i.e., our technical knowledge and capabilities) as we restart and re-engage. Most importantly, we must focus on those actions/paths that ensure our effectiveness, efficiency, and long-term survival.

At SPE, we, too, are in shakedown mode, which has been painful for all and excruciating for some. We have had to redirect resources, and, perhaps most importantly, we have had to focus on the reality that our business model must undergo substantial changes. The essentials will remain, such as technical conferences, workshops, and our primary intellectual asset, technical publications. However, assistance to sections and student chapters has been reduced, as well as support for academic and public service programs.

The reality is that SPE is financially sound, but, like any ship in a storm, it has to batten its hatches and, if the pandemic prevails, make further program reductions. On a positive note, SPE has been able to avoid reducing its workforce, as we have created a financial path that avoids personnel reductions. As the 2021 SPE President, I congratulate the SPE’s senior management for their efforts to achieve this outcome.

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