December 6, 2022 | Mark Paradies

Who Invented Operational Excellence?

Admiral H. G. Rickover

Who Invented Operational Excellence?

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. (Actually Captain Rickover when the picture above was taken.)

 Admiral Rickover lived out this quote…


As a Navy Nuclear Power trained officer, I experienced the rigors of achieving operational excellence firsthand. Rickover thought operational excellence was absolutely necessary to achieve nuclear safety (or, more generally, process safety).

Rickover explained a series of principles that helped the Nuclear Navy achieve excellence in congressional testimony after the accident at Three Mile Island. All the principles are necessary, but the top three are:

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

Read about these three principles in a series of articles that I wrote:

It Wasn’t Easy

He fought against the lax standards that the Navy practiced and implemented a system of excellence to run the Navy’s nuclear reactors.

You might think that he would be praised and lauded by the Navy for his success. Instead, he had to fight every inch of the way to steer a course true to his principles. It took congressional action for him to remain in charge of the program. And the oldest Admiral ever was fired by the youngest Secretary of the Navy ever. Sometimes that’s how Washington politics works.

Want to read more about Rickover’s life and how he developed his concepts of operational/process excellence? Read his semi-official biography (written by the official Nuclear Navy historian Francis Duncan) Rickover – The Struggle for Excellence. (Picture of the book below…)


Hear More…

Want to hear about Mark Paradies’ experiences in the Nuclear Navy and his experience achieving operational excellence?

High-Reliability, Operational Excellence, Mark Paradies

Plan to attend his 2023 Global TapRooT® Summit session titled:

How Admiral Rickover Built the First High-Reliability Organization.

Mark Paradies, the speaker for this session, was interviewed by Admiral Rickover, served on two nuclear-powered cruisers, was qualified as an “Engineer” by NAVSEA 08 (the headquarters Nuclear Navy organization), and has studied Rickover’s methods for decades after he left the Nuclear Navy. Don’t be misled by academic studies of high-reliability organizations by people who have never achieved high reliability. These high-reliability key factors are from someone who has been there, paid the price, and done that.

The Summit is being held on April 26-28 at the Margaritaville Lake Resort near Houston, Texas. For more Summit information, CLICK HERE.

Operational Excellence, Process Safety, Summit, Summit - Sessions
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