Sixty Years of Total E&P Angola
Total E&P Angola’s then-CEO Jean-Michel Lavergne played a big role from the start in making the affiliate’s sixtieth anniversary celebration an opportunity to promote team spirit internally and raise our profile externally. Given how historically important the anniversary was, we decided to celebrate not just with a single event, but a yearlong series of events from 2013 into 2014. It all kicked off on March 24, to mark exactly 50 years since Fina was awarded its first concession.
We appointed a four-person taskforce led by Jorge de Abreu, Total E&P Angola’s former deputy CEO. He was steeped in the affiliate’s history — he started his career as a driller on Block 3 — and had an impressive network of contacts. Right away, we enlisted the help of the affiliate’s employees by asking them to compile as many pieces of that history as possible, including photos and firsthand accounts, and to come up with possible slogans for the year of celebrations. That’s how we came up with ‘Totalmente com Angola’ [Totally with Angola]. We decided very early on that we wanted to publish a book highlighting the men and women of Total E&P Angola through stories and milestones from each period in the company’s history, from Fina, Elf and Total separately to the Total-PetroFina-Elf merger and on up to 2013. Those major milestones also helped us develop a unifying theme and organize events both internally and externally to celebrate the anniversary. That included a series of roundtable discussions in the auditorium at Total E&P Angola headquarters, with guests such as Angola’s former petroleum minister; the former CEO of Angola’s national oil company, Sonangol; and the Angolan vice president of human resources for Fina. Those events gave employees an opportunity to get answers to their questions from the men and women who actually made the affiliate what it is today. Just on a personal level, it was a powerful, moving experience.
Another of the year’s highlights was a short animated video we produced for the campaign that was shown at the start of the seminar and also broadcast on television and elsewhere in Angola. It was only a few seconds long, but it had a major impact.
The biggest challenge was to keep the events coming and maintain the interest of the various stakeholders over a 12-month period. We were helped by the fact that we had access early on to communications resources like short films and animated videos, plus those firsthand accounts, that we could use at the many events for outside audiences — press conferences, university lectures and the like. Each time, we brought employees from the affiliate with us who could talk about their work from an historical standpoint, such as the incredible changes in drilling techniques over time. Something remarkable happens when you can bring a young engineer face to face with a veteran who can explain how we advanced from onshore techniques to ultra-deep offshore drilling. Just talking about it is enough to fire your imagination.
One of the big reasons this sixtieth anniversary was such a huge success was the participation of employees from all over Total – not just Total E&P Angola, but also corporate headquarters in Paris and in Belgium, where many of the archives are housed and where some of the key players now reside — people like Jean-Pierre Amory, who was one of Fina’s first CEOs, or one of the earliest drillers of onshore wells in Angola.
The yearlong anniversary celebration culminated in a gala dinner where the guests included [Total’s then-CEO,] Christophe de Margerie, former ministers, board chairs and many more. It really strikes an emotional chord when you have six of the affiliate’s past CEOs on hand for the occasion to chat with employees. That kind of thing brings people together and helps you forget about the sometimes-difficult day-to-day conditions, since oil exploration and production is a complex industry that presents a lot of challenges. And that’s exactly why it’s important to remember the pioneers who struggled so hard to make our lives today a little bit easier.
By the close of the anniversary year, employees had a different perspective on the company they work for, as did our outside partners. I feel we succeeded in conveying that extra something that our competitors lack and that really helps to set us apart. We were very lucky to have a CEO who gave his full support to the project from the outset, and also that we were able to celebrate our sixtieth anniversary at a time when we were prospering financially.