Meetings as Sabotage

Bruce Schneier linked to a declassified sabotage manual from WWII (pdf). It’s an easy quick read if you’re interested.

It contains a lot of general ideas of how to be a pain in the ass to an occupying power. It mainly advocates low-level irritation and minor sabotage that, if combined with the actions of other people, would make a drain on the enemie’s war-fighting effort.

However, I was struck by this passage (page 32 of the linked pdf). For context, the person being instructed would be an employee that wishes to resist an occupying invader. Here’s how to subtract value from an organization:

(11) General Interference with Organisations and Production
(a) Organizations and Conferences
(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
(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.
(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.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(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.
(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.

I don’t know about you, but that describes quite accurately some weeks I’ve had at work.

I think there is an opportunity here for a teachable moment. The next time we’re discussing how to make meetings and the job more efficient, I should whip this out.

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4 Responses to Meetings as Sabotage

  1. Annie says:

    Oh my. Sounds like ANY meeting at school.

  2. Bill Ruhsam says:

    “Excuse me, Mr. Administrator? do you realize your meetings are exactly similar to WWII sabotage practices?”

  3. kristin says:

    are there ever meetings that don’t go like that? i’m not sure i’ve ever been to one.

  4. Mike L says:

    A lot of this is basically formal policy here, which raises some really interesting questions.

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