Judging by the amount of time it took to prepare this sneak peek into the inner workings of Saudi Aramco, I have a feeling that we get everything but a peek into what’s really going on. It’s important to understand how huge organizations with a lot of built-in opacity work. This is not one organization – its an endless series of bigger and smaller power bases, each with its own culture, loyalties and inner workings. Workers lie to their line managers, those lie to their superiors and so on until the top. Why? Easy, people always want two things. Bonuses and avoid blame. But things always go wrong. Admitting something is wrong amounts to career suicide. This is why things are being patched over and the superiors want that as they are on the same hook. This goes on for many decades as there is no cleaning event that a corporate restructuring or a bankruptcy proceeding usually brings. The dynamic is the same all over the world but in Saudi Aramco its must have built up a cellar full of corpses second to none.
The world’s focus, not surprisingly, has been on Saudi Aramco’s $111bn of net income recorded in 2018, making it the most profitable company in the world. But elements of the upstream story were largely ignored.