July 17, 2012
· Posted by Greg Lloyd
It's common to read about corporate culture as a big barrier to successful adoption and use of social software in business. It's easy to understand people's reluctance to change and adopt a new way of working. There are many good reasons to be wary of the promised benefits of change if you don't have relevant direct experience ("I've used this and it works"), clear examples, trust in your organization, and trust in your leadership. Books like Jacob Morgan's new The Collaborative Organization offer great practical guidance, examples, and answers to important questions. However, most social business advice makes a common and good-natured assumption that your organization is healthy - or at least has good intentions - but is just hard to convince. That's not always true.
The culture of some organizations ranges from ineffectual to poisonous, and it's difficult to turn such organizations around. I believe social software can be an amplifier of behavior - bad or good. A list of patterns of behavior to avoid comes from an interesting source: the January 1944 Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Simple Sabotage Field Manual No. 3 (declassified in 2008). I tip my hat to Michael Cooney for his July 13 2012 Network World story: CIA: Five particularly timeless tips from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual which includes Michael's own selection of quotes and a link to the newly released manual.
The purpose of the manual was to educate people in World War II occupied countries on techniques for simple sabotage, performed by ordinary citizens with no special training or equipment. In addition to physical sabotage, the manual offers suggestions on General Interference with Organizations and Production which should be read as an anti-pattern for Enterprise 2.0 behavior and methods.
Simple Sabotage Field Manual
OSS Field Manual No. 3
17 Jan 1944
a. The purpose of this paper is to characterize simple sabotage, to outline its possible effects, and to present suggestions for inciting and executing it.
b. Sabotage varies from highly technical coup de main acts that require detailed planning and the use of specially trained operatives, to innumerable simple acts which the ordinary individual citizen-saboteur can perform. This paper is primarily concerned with the latter type. Simple sabotage does not require specially prepared tools or equipment; it is executed by an ordinary citizen who may or may not act individually and without the necessity for active connection with an organized group; and it is carried out in such a way as to involve a minimum danger of injury, detection, and reprisal.
c. Where destruction is involved, the weapons of the citizen-saboteur are salt, nails, candles, pebbles, thread, or any other materials he might normally be expected to possess as a householder or as a worker in his particular occupation. His arsenal is the kitchen shelf, the trash pile, his own usual kit of tools and supplies. The targets of his sabotage are usually objects to which he has normal and inconspicuous access in everyday life.
d. A second type of simple sabotage requires no destructive tools whatsoever and produces physical damage, if any, by highly indirect means. It is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit. Making a faulty decision may be simply a matter of placing tools in one spot instead of another. A non-cooperative attitude may involve nothing more than creating an unpleasant situation among one's fellow workers, engaging in bickerings, or displaying surliness and stupidity.
11. General Interference with Organizations and Production
(a) 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.
(b) Managers and Supervisors
(1) Demand written orders.
(2) "Misunderstand" orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.
(3) 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.
(4) 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.
(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 fiaw. Approve other defective parts whose fiaws are not visible to the naked eye.
(8) Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.
(9) When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
(10) 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.
(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
(12) Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
(13) 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.
(14) Apply all regulations to the last letter.
(c) Office Workers
(1) Make mistakes in quantities of material when you are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
(2) Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
(3) Misfile essential documents.
(4) In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.
(5) Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.
(6) Hold up mail until the next collection.
(7) Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.
(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, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.
(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 lath 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. Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.
(3) Even it you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.
(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.
(5) 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.
(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
(7) Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so, that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.
(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.
(9) Misroute materials.
(10) Mix good parts with unusable scrap and rejected parts.
12. General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion
(a) Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
(b) Report imaginary spies or danger to the Gestapo or police.
(c) Act stupid.
(d) Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.
(e) Misunderstand all sorts of regulations concerning such matters as rationing, transportation, traffic regulations.
(f) Complain against ersatz materials.
(g) In public treat axis nationals or quislings coldly.
(h) Stop all conversation when axis nationals or quislings enter a cafe.
(i) Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks.
(j) Boycott all movies, entertainments, concerts, newspapers which are in any way connected with the quisling authorities.
(k) Do not cooperate in salvage schemes.
Strategic Services Field Manual No. 3
17 January 1944
OSS William J. Donovan Director
Declassified 2 April 2008
Download the full manual (.pdf) from the CIA.gov unclassified news archive.