Search Results for: rickover

 

Rickover Quote…

Posted: September 14th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

Success teaches us nothing; only failure teaches.

Admiral Hyman Rickover

 

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Rickover Quote…

Posted: September 7th, 2016 in Uncategorized

RickoverEducation Quote

Rickover Quote…

Posted: September 1st, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

Every hour has sixty golden minutes,
each studded with sixty diamond seconds.

Admiral Hyman Rickover

 

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Rickover Quote…

Posted: August 24th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

When you waste your time remember …
Even God cannot undo the past.

Admiral Hyman Rickover 

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Rickover Quote…

Posted: August 18th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

At this school, the smartest work as hard
as those who must struggle to pass.

Admiral Hyman Rickover 

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Rickover Quote…

Posted: August 11th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

The secret of success:

late to bed,

early to rise,

work like hell and you’ll be wise.

Admiral Hyman Rickover

 

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Rickover Quote…

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

Heaven is blessed with perfect rest.

The blessing of earth is toil.

Admiral Hyman Rickover

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Rickover Quote… About his famous interview techniques ,,,

Posted: July 7th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

Rickover talking about his famous candidate interviews …

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A Quote from Admiral Rickover…

Posted: April 28th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Pictures

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“Responsibility is a unique concept,
it can only reside and inhere in a single individual.
You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished.
You may delegate it, but it is still with you.
You may disclaim it, but you cannot divest yourself of it.
Even if you do not recognize it or admit is presence, you cannot escape it.
If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance,
or passing the blame cna shift the burden to someone else.
Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong,
then you never had anyone really responsible.” 

COMPLETE SERIES – Admiral Rickover: Stopping the Normalization of Deviation with the Normalization of Excellence

Posted: April 14th, 2016 in Documents, Performance Improvement, Pictures

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You may have dropped in on this series of articles somewhere in the middle. Here are links to each article with a quick summary…

1. There is No Such Thing and the Normalization of Deviation

Point of this article is that deviation IS NORMAL. Management must do something SPECIAL to make deviation abnormal.

2. Stop Normalization of Deviation with Normalization of Excellence

A brief history of how Admiral Rickover created the first high performance organization. The Nuclear navy has a history of over 50 years of operating hundreds of reactors with ZERO process safety (nuclear safety) accidents. He stopped the normalization of deviation with the NORMALIZATION OF EXCELLENCE. Excellence was the only standard that he would tolerate.

3. Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Technical Competency

This article describes the first of Rickover’s three keys to process safety: TECHNICAL COMPETENCE. The big difference here is this isn’t just competence for operators or supervisors. Rickover required technical competence all the way to the CEO.

4. Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Responsibility

The second key to process safety excellence (the normalization of excellence) – RESPONSIBILITY.

Do you think you know what responsibility means? See what Rickover expected from himself, his staff, and everyone responsible for nuclear safety.

5. Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Facing the Facts

FACING THE FACTS is probably the most important of Rickover’s keys to achieving excellence. 

Read examples from the Nuclear Navy and think about what your management does when their is a difficult decision to make.

6. Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – 18 Other Elements of Rickover’s Approach to Process Safety

Here is the other 18 elements that Rickover said were essential (as well as the first three keys).

That’s right, the keys are the start but you must do all of these 18 well.

7. Statement of Admiral Rickover in front of the Subcommittee on Energy Research and Production of the Committee on Science and Technology of the US House of Representatives – May 24, 1979

Here is Rickover’s own writing on what makes the Nuclear Navy special. What to this day (over 35 years after Rickover was retired) keeps the reactor safety record spotless.

That’s it. The whole series. I’m thinking about writing about some recent process safety related accidents and showing how management failed to follow Rickover’s guidance and how this lead to poor process safety performance. Would you be interested in reading about bad examples?

Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – 18 Other Elements of Rickover’s Approach to Process Safety

Posted: March 31st, 2016 in Documents, Human Performance, Performance Improvement, Pictures, TapRooT

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The previous three articles discusses Rickover’s “key elements” to achieving safety in the Navy’s nuclear program. They are:

  1. Technical Competence
  2. Total Responsibility
  3. Facing the Facts

In addition to these three keys that Rickover testified to Congress about, he had 18 other elements that he said were also indispensable. I won’t describe them in detail, but I will list them here:

  1. Conservatism of Design
  2. Robust Systems (design to avoid accidents and emergency system activation)
  3. Redundancy of Equipment (to avoid shutdowns and emergency actions)
  4. Inherently Stable Plant
  5. Full Testing of Plant (prior to operation)
  6. Detailed Prevent/Predictive Maintenance Schedules Strictly Adhered To
  7. Detailed Operating Procedures Developed by Operators, Improved with Experience, and Approved by Technical Experts
  8. Formal Design Documentation and Management of Change
  9. Strict Control of Vendor Provided Equipment (QA Inspections)
  10. Formal Reporting of Incidents and Sharing of Operational Experience
  11. Frequent Detailed Audits/Inspections by Independent, Highly Trained/Experienced Personnel that Report to Top Management
  12. Independent Safety Review by Government Authorities
  13. Personal Selection of Leaders (looking for exceptional technical knowledge and good judgment)
  14. One Year of Specialized Technical Training/Hands-On Experience Prior to 1st Assignment
  15. Advanced Training for Higher Leadership Positions
  16. Extensive Continuing Training and Requalification for All Personnel
  17. Strict Enforcement of Standards & Disqualification for Violations
  18. Frequent Internal Self-Assessments

Would like to review what Rickover had to say about them? See his testimony here:

Rickover Testimony

Now after the description of the excellence of Rickover’s program, you might think there was nothing to be improved. However, I think the program had three key weaknesses. They are:

  1. Blame Orientation (Lack of Praise)
  2. Fatigue
  3. Needed for Advanced Root Cause Analysis

Let me talk about each briefly.

BLAME ORIENTATION

The dark side of a high degree of responsibility was a tendency to blame the individual when something went wrong. Also, success wasn’t celebrated, it was expected. The result was burnout and attitude problems. This led to fairly high turnover rate among the junior leaders and enlisted sailors.

FATIGUE

Want to work long hours? Join the Nuclear Navy! Eighteen hour days, seven days a week, were normal when at sea. In port, three section duty (a 24 hour day every third day) was normal. This meant that you NEVER got a full weekend. Many errors were made due to fatigue. I remember a sailor was almost killed performing electrical work because of actions that just didn’t make sense. He had no explanation for his errors (they were multiple) and he knew better because he was the person that trained everyone else. But he had been working over 45 days straight with a minimum of 12 hours per day. Was he fatigued? It never showed up in the incident investigation.

ADVANCED ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS

Root Cause Analysis in the Nuclear Navy is basic. Assign smart people and they will find good “permanent fixes” to problems. And this works … sometimes. The problem? The Nuke Navy doesn’t train sailors and officers how to investigate human errors. That’s where advanced root cause analysis comes in. TapRooT® has an expert system that helps people find the root causes of human error and produce fixes that stop the problems. Whenever I hire a Navy Nuke to work at System Improvements, they always tell me they already know about root cause analysis because they did that “on the boat.” But when they take one of our courses, they realize that they really had so much to learn.

Read Part 7:  Statement of Admiral Rickover in front of the Subcommittee on Energy Research and Production of the Committee on Science and Technology of the US House of Representatives – May 24, 1979

If you would like to learn more about advanced root cause analysis, see our course offerings:

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Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Facing the Facts

Posted: March 24th, 2016 in Documents, Performance Improvement, Pictures

In the past two weeks we’ve discussed two of the “essential” (Rickover’s word) elements for process safety excellence …

Technical Competence

Responsibility

This week we will discuss the third, and perhaps most important, essential element – FACING THE FACTS.

What is facing the facts? Here are some excerpts of how Rickover described it:

“… To resist the human inclination to hope that things will work out,
despite evidence or suspicions to the contrary.

If conditions require it, you must face the facts and brutally make needed changes
despite significant costs and schedule delays. … The person in charge must
personally set the example in this area and require his subordinates to do likewise.

Let me give two examples from Rickover’s days of leading the Navy Nuclear Power Program that illustrate what he meant (and how he lived out this essential element).

Many people reading this probably do not remember the Cold War or the Space Race with the USSR. But there was a heated competition with national importance in the area of technology during Cold War. This technology race extended to the development of nuclear power to power ships and submarines.

Rickover in 1947, Rickover proposed to the Chief of Naval Operations that he would develop nuclear power for submarine propulsion. The technical hurdles were impressive. Developing the first nuclear powered ship was probably more difficult than the moon shot that happened two decades later. Remember, there were no computers. Slide rules were used for calculations. New metals had to be created. And new physics and radiation protection had to be created. None the less, Rickover decided that before he built the first nuclear powered submarine, he would build a working prototype of the submarine exactly like the actual submarine that was proposed. It would be built inside a hull and surrounded by a water tank to absorb radiation from the reactor.

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This first submarine reactor was built near Idaho Falls, Idaho, and went critical for the first time in March of 1953. Just imagine trying to do something like that today. From concept to critical operations in just 6 years!

The prototype was then operated to get experience with the new technology and to train the initial crew of the first submarine, the USS Nautilus. The construction of the ship started in 1952 before the prototype was completed. Therefore, much of the construction of the Nautilus was complete before appreciable experience could be gained with the prototype. Part of the reason for this was that the lessons learned from the construction of the prototype allowed the Nautilus construction to progress much faster than was possible for the prototype.

However, during the operation of the prototype it was found that some of the piping used for the non-reactor part of the steam plant was improper. It was eroding much faster than expected. This could eventually lead to a hazardous release of non-radioative steam into the engineering space – a serious personnel hazard.

This news was bad enough, but the problem also had an impact on the Nautilus. There was no non-destructive test that could be performed to determine if the right quality piping had been used in the construction of the submarine. Some said, go ahead with construction. We can change out the piping of the Nautilus after the first period underway and still beat the Russians to sea on nuclear power.

Rickover wouldn’t hear of it. He insisted that the right way to do it was to replace the piping even though it meant a significant schedule delay. Accepting the possibility of poor quality steel would be sending the wrong message … the message that taking shortcuts with safety was OK. Therefore, he insisted that all the steam piping be replaced with steel of known quality before the initial criticality of the reactor. He set the standard for facing the facts. (By the way, they still beat the Russians to sea and won the race.)

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The second example is perhaps even more astounding. Since no civilian or Navy power plants existed, there were no standards for how much occupational exposure a nuclear technician could receive. In addition, submarines were made for war and some proposed that any civilian radiation allowance should be relaxed for military men because they were sailors who must take additional risks. (Remember, we were doing above ground nuclear weapons testing in the US and marching troops to ground zero after the blast during this period.)

Rickover’s staff argued that a standard slightly higher than the one being developed for civilian workers would be OK for sailors. This higher standard would save considerable shielding weight and would result in a faster, more capable submarine. Rickover would hear nothing of it. He insisted that the shielding be built so that the projected radiation dose received by any sailor from the reactor during operation be no higher than that experienced by the general public. (Everyone receives a certain amount of exposure from solar radiation, dental and medical X-rays, and background radiation from naturally occurring radionuclides.) That was the design standard he set.

Many years later, it was noticed that Russian submarine crews were given time off after their deployments to relax in Black Sea resorts. Some thought this was just a reward for the highly skilled sailors. However, it was later discovered that this time off was required to allow the sailors time for their bone marrow to regenerate after damage due to high levels of radiation. The Russians had not used extra shielding and hence their sailors got significant radiation doses. Perhaps that why Russian nuclear submarine duty got the nickname of “babyless duty.”

There was no similar problem for US Nuclear Power Program personnel. Rickover made sure that the facts were faced early in the design process and no adverse health effects were experienced by US submarine sailors.

Let’s compare Rickover’s facing the facts to industrial practices. What happens when a refinery experiences problems and faces a shutdown? Does management “face the facts” and accept the downtime to make sure that everything is safe? Or do they try to apply bandages while the process is kept running to avoid losing valuable production? What would be the right answer to “face the facts” and achieve process safety excellence? Have we seen major accidents caused by just this kind of failure to face the facts? You betcha!

That’s it, the first three (and most important) of Rickover’s essential elements for process safety excellence. But that isn’t all. In his testimony to Congress he outlined additional specific elements that completed his reactor safety management system.

Read Part 6: Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – 18 Other Elements of Rickover’s Approach to Process Safety

Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Responsibility

Posted: March 17th, 2016 in Performance Improvement, Video

For the previous article, see:

https://www.taproot.com/archives/53085

The second of the “essential” elements for excellence described by Rickover is RESPONSIBILITY.

You probably think you know what this means. You probably think that this is something your company already emphasizes. But read on and you will discover that it may be a missing element of your process safety program, and one reason that your company is not achieving excellence.

In the Nuclear Navy, Admiral Rickover was totally responsible. He was in charge of the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of all the Navy’s nuclear reactors (prototypes, subs, and ships). This single point of responsibility was unique in the Navy and is unique in the civilian world.

And responsibility for safety was (and is) passed down the chain of command to each Commanding Officer, Engineer, Engineering Watch Officer, and Reactor Operator. If you see something unsafe, you are fully authorized and expected to act.

If a Reactor Operator saw some safety parameter go out of spec, s/he was fully authorized and expected to SCRAM (emergency shut down) the reactor. There was no asking permission or waiting for approval.

If a reactor accident (a meltdown) had occurred, Rickover would take full responsibility. And the rest of the chain of command would likewise take responsibility for their actions.

Do you remember the hearings in front of congress after the Deepwater Horizon accident? Each of the executives from BP, Transocean, and Halliburton pointed fingers at the other executives. None would take responsibility for the accident.

An Associated Press Story said:

Executives of the three companies, all scheduled to testify before the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee, are trying to shift responsibility for the
environmental crisis to each other, according to prepared testimony
.”

The Washington Post had to say about the testimony:

“Three major oil industry executives agreed on one thing in a pair of
Senate hearings Tuesday: Someone else was to blame for the drilling rig accident
that triggered the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Here is some coverage of the testimony that talks about “divided responsibility” …

Watch what it takes to get Tony Hayward to say he was the ultimately in command of safety at BP.

Without Rickover’s unique concept of total accountability/responsibility, people can sidestep responsibility. Without full accountability/responsibility, decisions to:

  • cut budgets,
  • reduce staffing,
  • defer maintenance,
  • opt for cheaper designs,
  • or shortcut company requirements

are easy to make because no one person is responsible. As Philippe Paquet wrote:

When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.”

Therefore, as Rickover points out, you must have one person at the top clearly responsible for process safety or no one is responsible and you will NOT be able to achieve excellence.

That’s it for this week’s discussion of excellence. Next week’s topic is perhaps the most important concept in excellence and process safety … “Facing the Facts.”

Read Part 5:  Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Facing the Facts

Normalization of Excellence – The Rickover Legacy – Technical Competency

Posted: March 10th, 2016 in Human Performance, Performance Improvement, Pictures

If you read last week’s article about stopping the normalization of deviation with the normalization of excellence, you are ready to start learning to apply Rickover’s philosophies of excellence to achieve amazing performance.

In his testimony to Congress, he starts out explaining the nuclear program and the success that has been achieved to that point. He then explains that there is no simple formula to achieve this success. Rather, what we now recognize as a management system is a “integrated whole of many factors.” He emphasizes that these factors cannot be used individually, but rather, must all be used together. He says, “Each element depends on all the other elements.”

So before I start explaining the individual elements, heed Rickover’s advice:

“The problems you face cannot be solved by specifying compliance with one or two simple procedures.
Reactor safety requires adherence to a total concept wherein all elements are recognized
as important and each is constantly reinforced.” 

 If you aren’t in the nuclear industry, you can replace the words “reactor safety” with “process safety” or maybe even “patient safety” to apply Rickover’s philosophies to your industry.

The first three elements that Rickover explains are:

  • Technical Competence
  • Responsibility
  • Facing the Facts

This really is the core of Rickover’s management philosophy and I will explain each in detail.

Technical Competancy

Rickover believed that to manage a high risk enterprise (nuclear power plant, refinery, offshore drilling platform, or other high risk ventures) you have to fundamentally understand the technical aspects of the job. This was NOT an overview of how things worked. It was a detailed understanding of the science, chemistry, physics, and engineering behind the processes.

The requirement for technical knowledge didn’t stop with the operations manager or plant manager. The technical knowledge requirement went all the way up to the CEO/President level. The higher on the org chart you were – the better your technical knowledge was suppose to be.

Rickover said:

“At Naval Reactors, I take individuals who are good engineers and make them into managers.
They do not manage by gimmicks but rather by knowledge, logic, common sense, and hard work.” 

All the managers (officers) in the Naval Nuclear Power Program went through a rigorous screening process. First, they were selected from the top portions of good engineering programs from universities across the US. Non-engineer majors were also considered if they had excellent grades in physics, calculus, and chemistry. All people selected then went to Naval Reactors headquarters where they took a technical test to evaluate their technical abilities. Tough engineering, math, chemistry, and physics questions were asked on a non-multiple choice test where the work to achieve the answer had to be shown.

The next day the candidates were put through several technical interviews by high level Department Heads at Naval Reactors.  The candidates were asked to solve tough real-life scenarios and apply their technical skills to real-world problems.

Finally, each candidate had the now famous Admiral Rickover interview. Rickover reviewed the candidates academic performance, test results, and interview performance and then asked some of his famous style of questions to evaluate how the candidate reacted under pressure.

My test and interviews went well enough until my Rickover interview. Before the interview, you sat in a room listening to a continuous lecture on what you should and should not do when in the presence of the Admiral. You were informed that you would be accompanied into the room by a senior officer who would sit directly behind you. That you should not address the Admiral until he spoke to you (he was a busy man who didn’t need to be interrupted). That you should take your seat in the chair in front of his desk and wait for him to address you. That when he asked you questions, you should answer directly and that “No excuse sir!” was not an answer. If he asked you a question he wanted to know the answer … not an excuse. That a direct answer was “Yes Sir! or No Sir!” If he asked you if you were married, “Yes Sir” would be a good answer but that didn’t mean that he wanted to hear about your sex life.

Before too long, my name was called and I departed with my escort for the Admiral’s office. When I entered his office I was shocked. Spartan would be a generous description of the accommodations. Old furniture was probably WWII surplus. Rickover’s desk was piled full of neatly stacked folders full of paper, and he was working on something with his head down.

He was a tiny, wiry looking old man, (He was probably in his late seventies, and I was in my senior year of college so too me he looked ancient).

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There was an old looking wooden chair directly in from of his desk. I sat down and immediately noticed that one of the legs was shorter than the rest. The chair naturally tipped back and forth. You could either lean forward and have the chair sit still forward or lean back and hold the chair back. I leaned back trying to maintain a straight posture.

I watched Rickover as he worked. He was busy reviewing paperwork and occasionally signing something as he moved files from one stack to another. Finally he stopped and took a file from a different stack and started looking at it. I thought, “That’s my file.”

A minute or two later he looked up at me and said.

“Midshipman Paradies, I see here you got a lot of Cs in your studies at the University of Illinois,
can you tell me why you did so poorly?”

My first thought was … “I’m sure glad he didn’t ask me about that D or E.” I certainly didn’t want to mention drinking beer and playing football and basketball, so I responded:

Well Admiral, Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois is a difficult curriculum and that’s all the better I could do.

I didn’t know that this was one of his standard questions, and he was looking for you to make excuses. I also didn’t know that Rickover had a MS in Electrical Engineering and that he thought it was a tough curriculum.

He said, “OK.”

He closed the file and looked me in the eyes and asked:

“ Midshipman Paradies, are you married?”

That was one of the questions that they warned us to answer directly. I said, “No Sir.”

He asked, “Are you engaged?”  I said, “Yes Sir.”

He continued to look me directly in the eyes (a very penetrating stare) and asked:

 “Has your fiancé every told you that you are good looking?”

That question caught me totally off guard, Here is this shrunken, bent over old admiral asking me about being good looking … where was he going with this?

I answered, “Yes Sir.”

He asked,

 “ What do you think she meant?”

 I was at a total loss. What did she mean? Who knows. I certainly didn’t want to say that I didn’t know. So I said,

Well, I guess Admiral that she liked the way I looked.”

He said, “No Midshipman Paradies, you are wrong.”

I then gave my best answer of the day. I said, “Yes Sir.”

He said,

What she meant was that she wanted to marry you.
When you go back, will you ask your fiancé what she meant and
send me a letter and tell me what she says
?”

I said, “Yes Sir.”

He said, “Get out of my office,” and pointed toward the door.

That was the end of my interview. I had passed. And I did go back and ask my fiancé what she meant and wrote the Admiral and told him what she said.

You might think that writing the letter wan’t important. But it was. The Admirals staff kept track of every letter that he was owed. When I returned for my Engineers Exam, when I checked in with my orders, the woman behind the desk asked, “Do you have any outstanding correspondence with the Admiral?” I said, “No.” She looked in a folder and said, “That’s correct, you sent the letter that you owed the Admiral in 1978.”

My interview was rather straightforward compared to the stories I’ve heard about other Midshipmen. Perhaps the favorite one I heard was from a friend of mine we’ll call Midshipman F.

Midshipman F was a History major. He had taken calculus, chemistry, physics, and other technical subjects and had done quite well. Rickover asked him if he wanted to be in the Naval Nuclear Program, why didn’t he get a technical degree. He responded that to understand the world, history was important.

Rickover then started to tell him that he had wasted his time with history classes. Rickover bet that Midshipman F didn’t know anything about history and ask him questions about history (which were “current events” to Rickover). After listening to Midshipman F answer some history questions, Rickover told him that he was “stupid” and didn’t know anything about history, and to go stand in the closet.

Midshipman F went over to the closet and opened the door, but there was already someone in the closet who looked like a senior officer. He stepped in, shut the door, and they both stood there in the dark and didn’t say a word.

After what Midshipman F said seemed like forever, his escort came over and opened the door and told Midshipman F that the Admiral would like to talk to him again. They went back to arguing over history and Midshipman F was kicked out of the Adsmirals Office twice to go sit in the “penalty box” (another very small room with a chair where you would be sent when the Admiral wanted to make you cool your heels). Midshipman F never gave up his argument about the importance of History and was eventually allowed into the Admiral’s program.

But whenever F would tell the story, he ended it with:

I’ve always wondered whatever happened to the other guy who was in the closet.

When you were accepted into the Nuclear Navy, you had to complete a year of extremely difficult technical training before you reported to your first ship. The competition was tough. In the 100 people in my class, many had Masters Degrees in Engineering. One guy had a “photographic memory.” He could remember everything that was written on the board and everything the instructor said verbatim. Not only could he do that, but he did it while doing the homework from the previous lecture. I had the third lowest GPA of anyone in the class and was immediately assigned to “remedial study.”

We had 7 hours of class a day with an hour off for lunch. I used my lunch time to study and usual put in an additional 5 hours each night and another 12 hours on the weekend. I had to keep study logs with how I applied my time in 5 minute intervals. I did well, graduating in the top 10 students in the class. Others did less well … 10 students failed out in the first 6 months. After 6 months, you were assigned to a nuclear prototype plant (and actual naval reactor that had been built ashore to test the design) and went through advanced classes and qualification to be a engineering officer of the watch (EOOW). For this qualification, you worked shift work with mandatory 12 hour days of watch standing, studying, and “check outs” from qualified personnel. Again, I did well and was the second officer to qualify in my class at the prototype 5 weeks before the end of the six month tour. One individual failed out of our prototype training (failed to qualify in the six month time span).

Why is it important to know about this pre-ship education? Because it gives someone who did not go through the program some idea of the technical knowledge that Rickover expected before anyone was allowed to go to sea and qualify to run one of “his” reactors.

And this was just the start of Technical Competency.

Once at sea there was never ending qualifications and continuing training. Drills. And annual “ORSE Board” inspections with level of knowledge exams and interviews.

An officer had to pass another level of Technical Competency call the Engineer’s Exam. To prepare for this exam, the officer was suppose to study in his “spare time” and learn everything there was to know about the design and technical specifications of the reactor plant and systems on his ship. Any topic from the start of Nuclear Power School to current operating problems to any potential equipment failure to system on his ship were fair game for the 8 hour test (with 30 minutes off for lunch) and three technical interviews. You couldn’t get less than a 3.0 score (of 4.0 total) on any section of the exam and couldn’t get less than a 3.2 of 4.0 total on the test. All the questions were essays or engineering calculations. And you had to write fast to complete the exam. During the interview portion of the exam on the next day, any of the interviewers could flunk you if they didn’t like the answers to their questions. Once again, at the end of the process, you had an interview with the Admiral. If you passed, you were then allowed to be assigned as the Engineering Officer for one of Rickover’s ships. People did fail and their career in the Nuclear Navy was over.

Finally, before you were allowed to become a Commanding Officer on one of Rickover’s ships, you had to qualify for command at sea and then go through “Charm School.” Charm School was an assignment to Rickover’s staff where you studied advanced topics and went through a series of brutal interviews with Rickover and his staff members. It was probably someone going though Charm School who was standing in Rickover’s closet when Midshipman F opened the door. Successfully completing Charm School (in some number of months to a year) got you your ticket to your very own “boat” (submarine) or nuclear powered surface ship as the Commanding Officer. Again, there were people who did not get Rickover’s blessing to command a nuclear powered ship. And despite over a decade of service, there was no appeal. If you didn’t have what it takes … you were out.

Most officers also managed to get an advanced degree somewhere along their career.

That’s Technical Competency.

I’ve worked at Du Pont. As a consultant, I’ve visited many refineries, chemical plants, and oil companies. The only thing that comes close to the technical competency required in the Nuclear Navy is the qualification in the commercial nuclear industry and the training program for astronauts at NASA. However, neither program has the advanced technical training requirements for senior level executives.

Read Part 4:  Normalization of Excellence – the Rickover Legacy – Responsibility

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