Naval Aviator, Test Pilot; Captain, US Navy (retired)
Former Astronaut; NASA
Author: Controlling Risk—In A Dangerous World; Morgan James, New York, NY, 2017
We live in a dangerous world. There are countless ways to be hurt or to die prematurely in preventable accidents. Since becoming a naval aviator in 1976, I have been on a continuous journey to learn how to prevent the next potential accident that is inevitably trying to injure or kill me.
Organizations manage risk with systematic and structured processes implemented by managers to help the workforce conduct their jobs in a safe and productive manner. But, even in the best organizations, when it is time to go to work, operators don’t manage risk – they control risk. To work effectively and stay alive, the frontline workers need operating techniques for controlling risk.
Techniques of Operating Excellence were developed to help flight crews execute successful missions and stay alive in the dangerous and unforgiving environment of space. The techniques are intended not only to help operators stay alive and prevent accidents, though those are nice incentives. After almost forty years in hazardous endeavors, I have found that the techniques, while saving lives, also result in high performance and maximized long-term productivity. When really understood and embraced as a way of operating, these Techniques of Operating Excellence enable groups of people working together to optimize performance in any high-risk business, and accomplish more in our dangerous world (or in space).
With thirty-five years of experience in high-hazard operational environments, Jim provides consulting services to leaders and operators in dangerous endeavors with critical mission objectives. He is the only astronaut to have commanded five missions in space.
Jim earned a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1974. He began his career as a Naval Aviator aboard the USS John F Kennedy, flying the A-7 Corsair. After graduating from the US Naval Test Pilot School, Jim performed flight-testing of the F/A-18 Hornet.
In 1984, Jim was selected to join NASA in its tenth group of astronauts. Over a twenty-year career, he flew six times on the Space Shuttle. The five-time commander flew two missions to the Russian Space Station, Mir, and two missions to the International Space Station. In 1995, he was appointed as the Director of Flight Crew Operations, specifically selected to improve the flight and ground safety in the astronaut corps. Based on that success, Jim was selected after the Columbia accident to enhance the safety aspects in the organizational culture at the Johnson Space Center, home of NASA’s human space flight program.
Bringing his experience from the aerospace industry as a former NASA executive and astronaut, Jim joined the oil and gas industry as a Safety and Operations Auditor. Four years later, he was selected as a VP for Operating Leadership. In this role, he and supported efforts to improve performance results consistently over the long-term, by emphasizing effective leadership behaviors as a key way to influence and inspire people to conduct safe and high-quality operations.
After successful careers in naval aviation, and the aerospace and oil and gas industries, Jim is passionate about helping leaders and operators perform successfully in hazardous environments.