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Shot Down. By Your Own Cannon Fire.

Yes, you read that right. This has actually happened, and apparently on more than one occasion. A Grumman test pilot by the name of Tom Attridge somehow managed to do that while testing a Grumman F11F-1 Tiger on 21 Sep 1956. It happened while he was test-firing four 20mm cannon. After firing two bursts, Attridge actually flew under his own cannon fire and was struck by three of his own shells as he passed the 7,000-foot mark. He had been shot down. By his own cannons. Thankfully, he survived to tell the tale. You can read the account of it here.

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Has something similar ever happened to you? Have you ever started on a project or taken on an assignment that looked just like any other, only to have it turn into your worst nightmare before too long? I don’t think Attridge was expecting to be shot down by his own cannon fire. If at all, that would probably have been the last thing on his mind! I’m pretty sure all pre-flight checks and other precautionary measures were taken before he embarked on that flight. Test pilots don’t remain test pilots for very long if they throw caution to the winds. Could that incident have been prevented? Now, in hindsight, of course! But what if you had been on the staff of Grumman and responsible for the workings of the F11F-1 Tiger? Do you think you could have foreseen what might have happened? Perhaps. Mechanics, aerodynamics and other disciplines were already more than well-established at that time. During World War Two, the Japanese Zero fighter already had synchronization mechanisms that allowed the pilot to fire his machineguns through the front propeller, just to illustrate that the technical know-how about such matters was already well-established.  Perhaps what was lacking was that people did not know what to ask. Or perhaps forecasting was not detailed enough, as no one was conscious that one could, in fact, shoot oneself down!

Today, we have better tools with which to conduct forecasting. Various simulations can be run before embarking on projects, allowing us to foresee what could happen if we undertook a course of action under given environmental conditions. If you wanted to start a ruby mining project in Myanmar, for example, there are already a host of simulation tools that calculate capital outlay, profits, what-ifs and so on for you. These parameters are adjustable and allow you to have a feel of best-case and worst-case scenarios, which will aid in your decisions.

Having all that, we had also better be extremely good with the current resources we have at our disposal as well. In the movie “Crimson Tide”, the Sub-Surface Ballistic Nuclear (SSBN) submarine Alabama has to defend herself against a Russian Akula class hunter-killer submarine. Having managed to avoid the Russian torpedoes, the Alabama fires two of her own, but only after waiting for the distance between the two submarines to get past the 1,000-yard mark because the Alabama‘s torpedoes were designed to be armed only at 1,000 yards. What this means is that if the Alabama had fired her torpedoes too soon, they could well have simply struck the hull of the Akula without exploding! Do you know your business well? Have you been walking your “shop floor”, so to speak? Have you been researching both your potential clients as well as your competitors? It is only when we are conversant with what we already have that we would be well-placed to ask questions no one else might have thought of. So, be encouraged. Work hard!

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So, as you continue to work in and on your business, make sure you have these well in hand. I wager you’ll have a better chance of going in the right direction. And avoid shooting yourself down in the process as well.

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