Someone supposedly said, while languishing in the county jail in the Old West, or maybe it was in an old movie about the West, “Knowing you’re gonna’ hang in the morning really focuses the mind.”

We might be sitting here in a similarly prickly situation today, like that poor soul in jail. People throughout this industry are reeling, but they are also focusing: They are looking anew at every aspect of their business strategy, assets in their portfolio, decisions they’ve made, the balance sheet, the staff, the joint ventures. If the price of oil can’t seem to get above $40/bbl and stay there, and global demand for the commodity remains so wobbly, and natural gas prices are not worth discussing, then everyone in the oil and gas business knows what they face.

But whatever direction macro factors take, executives know how to respond, and the industry will be the better for it. Yes, some good companies will fall by the wayside, which is a disappointing thing, terrible for employees and investors. But for those who remain, new efficiencies and better responses will propel them to greater heights. In this way, the one good side effect of this awful downturn—disciplined focus—will last.

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