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How to Sabotage Meetings – From Actual Spies

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Have you ever been stuck in a meeting that droned on and was pointless?  Perhaps then your colleague was a WWII spy following the Sabotage Field Manual put out by the Allies.

I love reading about history, especially anything to do with World War II.  I recently came across this declassified OSS Simple Sabotage Field Manual from 1944. You can also get the PDF here.

The OSS was the predecessor for the CIA and operated during WWII. They laid the foundation for the modern CIA and created field manuals on all types of sabotage techniques.  Section 11 of the field manual is an awesome read on how to sabotage meetings.

Since we as technology professionals are often stuck in meetings, I thought it would be a good exercise to review how to sabotage your meeting, so that you know what to avoid.

OSS Says Do This to Cause Sabotage, So Let’s Do the Opposite

The OSS comes up with a list of 8 ways to sabotage meetings.  If you want to have an effective meeting do the opposite of everything they recommend doing to sabotage. In short, make meetings brief, make decisions, and keep everyone on schedule.

Section (11) General Interference with Organizations and Production

OSS (1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

Effective Meetings – Take shortcuts and expedite anything.

OSS (2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

Effective Meetings – Keep meetings short and on schedule.  Give everyone a set time.

OSS (3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible – never less than five.

Effective Meetings – Make decisions.

OSS (4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

Effective Meetings – Stay on topic.

OSS (5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

Effective Meetings – Move meeting items forward and keep them brief.

OSS (6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.

Effective Meetings – Make decisions.

OSS (7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

Effective Meetings – Make decisions.

OSS (8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision -raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

Effective Meetings – Make decisions!

Managers & Supervisors

The OSS also showcases how to be a bad manager so that you can sabotage production.  Some highlights are:

  1. Demanding written orders.
  2. Misunderstanding orders.
  3. Don’t deliver until completely ready.
  4. Don’t order until stocks are low.
  5. Only order high-quality materials.
  6. Assign unimportant jobs first and important jobs to inefficient workers.
  7. Insist on perfect work.
  8. Make mistakes.
  9. Give incomplete instructions.
  10. Give undeserved promotions.
  11. Hold conferences/meetings.
  12. Duplicate files.
  13. Create multiple procedures.
  14. Apply everything to the last letter.

So if you are doing those in your management style, then you may want to change.

Office Workers and Employees

The rest of the manual comes in at the worker level and basically states that you should make mistakes, misfile, hold up projects, create interruptions, work slowly, blame, and be an ineffective worker.

So if you’re interested in meeting sabotage, feel free to follow the OSS’ advice. If not, consider doing the opposite for a more beneficial outcome to your next meeting.


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