There’s No Place in a Performance Culture for “Simple Sabotage”

Do any of these actions by others in your company frustrate you?

  • Insist on doing everything through “channels”. Never permit shortcuts to be taken to expedite decisions.
  • Make “speeches”. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate “points” with long anecdotes.
  • Whenever possible, refer all matters to committees for “further study and consideration”. Attempt to make committees as large as possible, never less than five.
  • Haggle over the precise words of communications, minutes and resolutions.
  • Hold meetings when there is more critical work to be done.
  • Multiple the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, paychecks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.

In 1944, at the height of World War II, by William Donovan, the director of the US office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA) was looking for a way to help ordinary citizens inside enemy territory who were sympathetic to the allies destabilize their communities and business. They created the “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” In Brave New Work, Aaron Dignan notes it was wide ranging, from ways to damage buildings and infrastructure to interrupt supply lines. At the end was a little section focused on disrupting day-to-day operations – and included the above list of actions (and many more)!

The next time, you see such behaviors, consider whether they are helping the performance culture advance to achieve the company’s goals – or are simply sabotaging speed and agility!

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