When I was a 12-year-old kid in middle school, my best friend Buzz and I would entertain ourselves on Friday and Saturday nights playing our favorite game, Hit the Deck.
The game was inspired by our favorite TV show from the 1970s, Baa Baa Black Sheep starring Robert Conrad. “Hit the deck” was what they yelled on the show every time Japanese fighter planes would strafe and bomb the runway on Vella La Cava.
My house sat right on the curve of Cameron Lane, which meant we could see when a car would turn onto our street. Buzz and I would hang around in the street and when we would see the lights of an approaching car we’d yell “hit the deck” and run and dive into the bushes. Usually the car would pass by but every now and then it would slow down as if to wonder what those two crazy fat boys were up to.
It’s amazing what you remember from your childhood.
Today, decades later, it’s amazing to see our boyhood game still being played, this time by employees, managers, and organizations. Here’s the modern-day version:
- A competitor comes up with a technology, product, or service that threatens ours. Rather that develop strategies to counter it, the executives yell “hit the deck” and hunker down hoping their existing technology, product, or service will somehow survive.
- A manager has one unproductive, disengaged employee who is disrupting the team, causing conflict, and sapping morale. Rather than confronting the employee and getting rid of them, the manager yells “hit the deck” and pretends the problem will go away on its own.
- An employee realizes his skills are becoming obsolete. Even though there are hints of impending layoffs, this employee yells “hit the deck” (silently to himself) and refuses to learn the new skills and technology that may save his job.
Hitting the deck seems like the safest and often most-viable option. Unfortunately, complicated problems, difficult people, and obsolete strategies aren’t handled by hunkering down. This only makes the situation worse and the correct solution even more complicated and expensive. While your instincts tell you to hit the deck, your best bet might be to stand and fight. More importantly to do what you can to predict the crisis and head it off before it starts.
On the occasions where the Marines of VMF-214 disregarded intelligence on Japanese planes or were caught unaware, hitting the deck was the right move. But in most episodes, those same Marine pilots were waiting for the Japanese fighters or even better, surprised them by proactively attacking their bases and aircraft carriers. It was then that the Black Sheep did their best work.
This week, rather than sitting back hoping for success and safety, why not proactively seek solutions. You’ll never do your best work or achieve your best results lying face down on the deck.