How to Sabotage Your Projects

A friend of mine sent me a link to a declassified WWII era document called the "Simple Sabotage Field Manual" that was the subject of a presentation at the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference. It is a fascinating read if you do any work managing collaborative efforts (anything involving a team) or build systems to facilitate collaboration (like SharePoint).

It gives advice on how to deliberately screw things up but can also be read as an anti-pattern of behaviors to avoid yourself and to watch for in those you manage or collaborate with. The evil genius of this guide is that all of the techniques it advises are destructive behaviors that normal people exhibit on a daily basis. So, if you were to do these things in a theater of war you could hurt the enemy while maintaining plausible deniability and avoid a firing squad.

I guarantee that you’ve seen most or all of these in action. I know I have over the many consulting projects I’ve done here in Atlanta and not just the ones involving SharePoint.

Here are some of my favorites:

Sabotage Under the Guise of Process

  • Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
  • 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.
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, 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" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

Sabotage Via Project Management

  • 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.
  • In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
  • 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.
  • When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
  • Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  • Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
  • Apply all regulations to the last letter.

Sabotage Your Team Via Poor Work

  • Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job
  • Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can
  • Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools
  • Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker
  • Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned
  • Act stupid (My favorite)
  • Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble

I predict it won’t be long before someone writes a best-selling business book based on this guide.

Author: Doug Ware