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CIA approved guide to sabotaging your organisation

The hype of the digital transformation is often about the rapidly changing wishes and behaviour of the customer, the rapid technological changes and the competition that overtakes you left and right and from unexpected corners. That is why people have to transform now and digitally, please.


That could all be true. But what many organisations don't want to see is that they themselves are their own worst enemy. The employees, the management, the processes, the way of working and the culture stand in the way of any improvement and in fact, it goes from bad to worse.


Effectively sabotage the organisation


There are roughly two ways to destroy an organisation. Or at least paralyse it so that little or nothing of value is delivered. One way is to cause physical damage to buildings, materials, transportation and machines (including computer systems). The other way is more insidious and has a much more drastic effect: human obstruction of organisational processes so that they lead to wrong decisions and lack of cooperation.


It is difficult but possible to protect yourself against terrorism, burglary, cyber attacks and other physical or digital inconvenience. But the human way is a threat from within that is very difficult to detect, spreads at lightning speed and is even the 'normal situation' at a certain point. Sabotage successful!


CIA gives the saboteur a helping hand


Do you want to know how to sabotage an organisation from the inside? Then this is your chance to visit Homeland Security's website for ever highly confidential information!


In 1944, the predecessor of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), developed a secret manual for sabotaging enemy organisations.



In 32 pages you will read simple tips and techniques that you can put into practice today without any training. I give you ten tips:

  1. Insist that everything goes through 'the right channels'. Don't give permission to take "shortcuts" that expedite decisions.

  2. Do give lots of 'speeches.' Talk as often and as much as possible. Illustrate your "point" with long anecdotes and personal experiences.

  3. If possible, refer each action to committees for “further study and consideration”. Make those committees as big as possible, with never less than five people.

  4. Bring up as many and often totally irrelevant things as possible.

  5. Whine at length about precise wording in presentations, documents, minutes and decisions.

  6. Put previous decisions back on the table to make a new decision about them, for example by questioning the practical application of the previous decision.

  7. Constantly pleads for “caution”. Be “reasonable” and urge your conversation partners to be “reasonable” as well and, above all, not to make decisions too hastily, as this may lead to regrets or problems later on.

  8. Worry about the correctness of every decision. Question whether this decision was within the mandate of the group and whether it contradicts the policy of a higher echelon in the hierarchy.

  9. To lower morale and thus production, you have to be nice to incompetent employees. Give them the compliments and promotion they don't deserve. Disadvantage competent employees and complain about their work without any reason.

  10. Organise meetings if there is actually important and preferably even urgent work to be done.


This is neither a joke nor a hoax


Is this a celebration of recognition for you? Well, party. Reading these 10 ideas, you may be wondering if this was really written down as far back as 1944. It still seems so current and of this time. This makes it clear that organisations are mainly determined by people and that this kind of human sabotage behaviour is of all times.


It is certainly not a hoax, The website where you can download this document is really from Homeland Security. I pulled this report from the CIA's website a few years ago, and that club isn't known for being a bunch of pranksters. Well, very occasionally they make a joke ...


More information for the enterprise sabotage 'die hards'


You can read more about 'enterprise sabotage' in the MIT Sloan article How to (Inadvertently) Sabotage Your Organization by Stefan Thomke.


Be sure to read Cara Giaimo's article A Guide for Everyday Saboteurs, which in turn is derived from Cara's original article with the brilliant title The Early Spy Manual That Turned Bad Middle Management Into An Espionage Tactic.


And also download the Simple Sabotage Field Manual from the Homeland Security Digital Library.


Humor is a powerful antidote


Use the list of 10 sabotage tips and this sabotage handbook as an antidote to the abuses – because that is what they are – in your organisation. Do it with humor. Anyone who reads this list of 10 points will laugh and cry a little at the same time. Use that moment to name the problem and change the behaviour.


No digital transformation can be successful if the organisation sabotages itself. So start the change with yourself and your team. Start the discussion and address this kind of behaviour in your own team. And find managers who are receptive to this story and the message behind it. Good luck!

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