Sabotage any Strategy
15 ways to kill off a strategic idea
Strategy-making for any important endeavor involves group-work. Groups mean collaboration.
What are the different ways you can kill that collaboration? Make it ineffectual, make it impotent.
The American pre-cursor to the CIA, the OSS, actually published a field manual for this in 1944. The objective was to undermine the Axis powers from within by helping spies in Europe with some tactics and tricks that would sabotage Axis day-to-day operations. Some entries:
Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken to expedite decisions.
Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
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 wording of communications, minutes, and resolutions.
Refer back to a matter 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.
Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Raise the question of whether [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher decision.
Writer and storyteller Matthew Dicks has graciously augmented this list in a recent book, with an addition and amplification of seven additional sabotage techniques by a colleague, Anne McGrath:
Assume no one has ever attempted to do what you’re trying to do, and start from scratch.
Hide mistakes along the way and don’t bother collecting or sharing ideas for your best-practices or lessons-learned folder.
Spend no time identifying and recruiting effective partners or participants for your project. Just invite anyone and everyone, regardless of what they’d bring to the table.
Have murky or never-discussed visions, goals, purposes, and values. Assume everyone has the same identical end goal in mind.
Don't evaluate leadership capacity. Just use the leader you’ve always used for every project.
Don’t engage the people you are trying to help. For example, if in a school, leave students out of the equation regarding all decisions that will have direct impact on their lives.
End meetings with no clear action plan for things to accomplish and bring back for the next meeting. This helps create meetings that go on forever with nothing changing.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. Avoid these 15 like leprosy.
*This is a re-post of an essay from Sept. 26, 2022.