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Are you sabotaging your organizational goals?

Modernization Book Review

I recently came across Simple Sabotage Field Manual. What struck me was you do not need bombs and explosives to start sabotaging. Many small actions that can cause delays, untidiness, and losses are also sabotage attempts. Do you see any parallels between the excerpts of the white paper and organizational behavior where you work?

When seen in the context of software modernization, it’s clear that software modernization doesn’t just have to do with the tech but also the mode of operation of every team and organization as a whole. If you want to get better at something, you will also have to change your habits; otherwise, you are unintentionally sabotaging your org’s goals!

Following is the list of simple sabotage guidelines, cherry-picked from the paper.

General Interference with Organizations and Production

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.

Managers and Supervisors

  1. Demand written orders.
  2. Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.
  3. Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.
  4. A clean factory is not susceptible to fire, but a dirty one is. Workers should be careless with refuse and janitors should be inefficient in cleaning. If enough dirt and trash can be accumulated an otherwise fireproof building will become inflammable.
  5. Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.
  6. In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
  7. Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.
  8. When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
  9. To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
  10. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  11. Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
  12. Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
  13. Apply all regulations to the last letter.

Office Workers

  1. Make mistakes in quantities of material when you are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
  2. Misfile essential documents.


  1. Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary…
  2. Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary.
  3. Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
  4. Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion

  1. Act stupid.
  2. Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
  3. Report imaginary spies or danger

Industrial Production: Manufacturing

  1. Leave saws slightly twisted when you are not using them. After a while, they will break when used.
  2. Let cutting tools grow dull. They will be inefficient, will slow down production, and may damage the materials and parts you use them on.

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