[June 11, 2016] After the December 7th, 1941 Japanese bombing of the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor Hawaii, several fact-finding commissions were formed to determine whether any targeted indicators were missed that would have forewarned of the impending attack. This included intelligence on Japanese military, economic, and political activity that pointed to Pearl Harbor and the propensity of an attack on U.S. assets.1 Leaders need indicators in their leadership toolbox.
Since time immemorial leaders have looked at indicators to help them determine factual or trend information on a range of issues, behaviors, or the state of something. For example, business leaders look for indicators on whether their competitors are developing products that may be cheaper or better than their own. And, diplomats are always perceptive about changing attitudes in foreign leaders that may signify an adjustment of political relationships.
My personal military favorite was when I was trained as a junior officer on techniques of what we called “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” … or IPB for short. It involved establishing best guesses to what might indicate an attack by the enemy and from where, in what strength, and possible targets. These were indicators that, if they were observed, would tell us what the enemy was up to.
Leaders consciously study and establish what they believe will be indicators of something important. They never have all the information necessary, nor adequate time to make good decisions; so relying on specific indicators allows that leader to focus their resources better. Military leaders cannot look for the enemy everywhere all the time so they are acute to the need to focus better.
In the case of Pearl Harbor, there was evidence that the Japanese would attack U.S. military assets and was specifically cited in a November 27th warning dispatch from the Chief of Staff, General Marshall. The conclusion was that “the Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department does not appear to have taken any appreciable action … prior to the warning.” A number of lessons learned came from this in-depth look at the attack and those implemented certainly improved the ability of the U.S. military to take action based upon credible intelligence.
All leaders need to be aware of the need to focus their resources on key indicators and this tool in their leadership toolbox will go a long way to ensuring their success.
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- Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack – http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/congress/part_0.html
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