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The Sneak Attack

USSArizona_PearlHarbor_2 "Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow on our Pacific possessions... Radio makes surprise impossible." -Josephus Daniels, former U.S. Secretary of the Navy, October 16, 1922

We never saw it coming... or did we?  Sixty-seven years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is interesting to read the reports and watch the documentaries.  The Japanese fleet was picked up on radar that morning.  So, could the attack have been averted?  Well, it's a moot point, only to be argued by "what if" arm chair historians.  The fact is that it did happen.

Having visited Pearl Harbor, I stood in awe of the monument.  it's a sobering reminder of the damage which can be caused by war and hatred.  It's a beautifully haunting memorial.  A lot of lives were lost that day because of the surprise attack.

We have surprise attacks all the time.  In the office, we have adopted the unflattering term of "being thrown under the bus."  And the victims always declare, "I didn't see it coming."  But this is a situation which needn't be argued in the past tense.  I contend there are ways to see if you're about to be thrown under the proverbial bus:

  • Pay attention - first and foremost, allow yourself to let your inner Jane Goodall come out.  Observe the office animals around you.  Their body language and word choice will give off clues on how they feel about you and each other.

  • Same page - getting the whole team focused on a common goal early will prevent some of the politics which occur as a project progresses.  Have team members sign off on deliverables to show (visibly) everyone's support of the project and the approach.

  • Build relationships rather than alliances - from the beginning, look for ways to forge long-term relationships with those you work with.  Test the waters for snakes, but look for means to build trust.  Your project is NOT a reality TV show, so don't look for the short-term win just to get a deliverable out the door.

  • Heightened Accountability - if people are shirking responsibility and making excuses, then it's likely they'll attack you when your back is turned.  If you are having to play the accountabilty cop, then be alert to possible back-lashes from your slackers who are now more visible in their boss's eyes than they care to be.

  • Hide, Achilles - if you have a weakness which can be exploited, be careful how public you make it.  The snakes will use it against you at the first sign that it can benefit them.

  • Peaks and Valleys - be on your guard during deliverable reviews and peer reviews, which are the most vulnerable moments for sneak attacks.  Spend quality time with your stakeholders to shore up any weak links or loose cannons.

  • Tell me first - create a culture where honest feedback may be given and constructive criticism received directly.  People are more likely to throw somebody else under the bus if they've been shot down by giving honest feedback previously.

I just finished a semester when one class of students had to do peer reviews.  There were a couple of students who were thrown under the bus by their teammates.  I'm curious if those individuals even knew they were perceived as poor performers by their peers.  My guess is they will perceive their grade as a complete sneak attack.

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