Rickover’s International Impact

By Dr. IJ Arora

I have neither met the Admiral nor served with him. However, I did hear of the great Admiral when the Indian Navy in 1986, went to train for its own first nuclear submarine to the then Soviet Union (now Russia). I was in the command team and the Admiral was mentioned for his strict thoroughness.

Then over the years I quite forgot about him. Once I migrated to the USA, I took to work in the quality field. And this I want to refer to as a tribute to him and an example for all of us. The process based management system approach as envisaged in the ISO 9001:2015 and all of the ISO standards was in the 80s rejected by US companies as foreign, British and not aligned to USA. Not many knew, and I doubt many don’t appreciate it even now, that like many good things the world has, have their fountainhead in the USA! For the first nuclear submarine construction, Admiral Rickover had a lot to do, and Congress, I am told would not fund the required manpower. It was the ingenious Admiral who initially, hand wrote the process based approach. He brought the system approach to the new nuclear arm. 

These notes by the Admiral were then loaned to the Royal Navy, who used the approach when they went in for the first nuclear submarine construction for the RN. Eventually these notes by the Admiral became a BS and were used in the RAF, RN and the army in UK. It was then as a BS (British Standard) published for the industry in UK. Conveniently the US as source and Admiral as the author seems to have been forgotten. Today the efficiency of the management systems is based on the use of ISO 9001. It is the most commonly used standard in the industry and the armed forces. 

I thought I would share this with you. “A bad system will let down a good person every time.”- Dr. Deming, has its genesis in what the brilliant admiral designed.

All submarining, particularly nuclear submarining is about the system approach. “Navy is a masterplan designed by the geniuses for execution by idiots …” Herman Wouk, is the positive statement about the USN having a reliable system approach was the brain child of Admiral Rickover.