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Domino by Nick Tasler

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22Shift Happens

Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

—Mike Tyson

One thing you can count on as reliably as death and taxes is that roughly three and a half minutes after you successfully get your entire team aligned in a new direction, some change in your environment will force you to reshuffle your priorities again. This is precisely what happened to Noney, one of Jonathan's direct reports. Barely one month after the Nairobi meeting where he set his priorities and publicly gave his team permission to focus on stabilizing the IT infrastructure, Operation Storm happened. The details of Operation Storm are unimportant (and a tad confidential), but suffice to say that it commanded the attention of Noney's team immediately. They had known it was on the horizon for months, but it was up to the government officials to put the ball in motion, and they weren't giving any advanced warnings.

Sudden new priorities like Operation Storm can create a sticky situation for agile leaders. If handled incorrectly, it can completely undermine credibility. In Noney's case, for example, the last time her team saw her live and in person, she had explicitly placed Operation Storm on her team's 90-day waitlist and then publicly given her team permission to ignore it for 90 days. At the same Nairobi meeting, the other direct reports on Jonathan's team—Noney's peers—had also watched Jonathan say—nay, swear—that nothing was more important for every person in that department than ...

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