The Art of Sabotage

William “Wild Bill” Donovan was an American lawyer, soldier, and diplomat who directed the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. 

The military agency was charged with collecting foreign intelligence and carrying out counterpropaganda and covert action operations. The OSS would later turn into the CIA. 

In January of 1944, under his leadership the OSS published the Simple Sabotage Field Manual as a provisional guide for basic doctrine on how to disrupt the enemy. 

Even today, the tactics and strategies are relevant to short and long term effects on civilian life. 

Among other things, the Field Manual teaches saboteurs how to impact organizations and their overall production.

General Interference with Organizations and Production.

Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length.

When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make committees as large as possible- never less than five,

Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.

Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable.” 

Be worried about the propriety of any decision.

We all hear about TO DO lists. This short list is a great NOT TO DO list.

Think about you and your work. Think about joint venture teams that you operate on.

Now think about how many times you might have engaged in one of these tactics. Maybe it wasn’t you, but someone on your team.

Either way, to not interfere with the team’s goal, we must avoid sabotage.

We must have a bias for action. We must anticipate what is the best next step. We must stay sharp and get out of our own way.

Read the list again. Try to remember, these are direct tactics applied to sabotage. They do not help any organization or team perform better. 

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