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    I think the most clever bit about the OSS guidance is that confronting someone who does those things actually makes you look more like the saboteur.

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      The Big Co’s of the world are rife with this problem. Even worse, in the meetings I attend I know who these people are, but there is little I can do about it. I was really hoping the countermeasures section was written as part of this post, because I’d really like some idea here, other than just bluntly calling out the saboteurs.

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        The trick is to establish consensus on what is to be done before the meeting, and make sure the chair is on board.

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          Well, having an agenda and goals are important for every meeting…but when a saboteur derails a group, even for a moment, getting back on track to complete the stated purpose within the timebox is not easy.

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            Not with a capable chair.

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          It’s probably something well beyond the Big Co’s of the world. My wife recognized these as a teacher in a small department in a mid-sized school. I recognize these tactics from a variety of different jobs in manual labour.

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            Sometimes making the same “reasonable” suggestions, or amplifying them, puts them in a spot where they can’t go forward and so, to maintain momentum, have to go back.

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            Here’s a PDF of the original manual mentioned in the story (from the CIA, no less), in case you don’t want to look at the one on slideshare.

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              During my stint in government, I kept a link to the OSS Sabotage Manual in my email footer, since it bore a striking resemblance to what a lot of folks thought was a best practice.

              Would be fascinating for someone to an anthropological study of how the advice morphed from sabotage to “best practice”. I suspect it looks like, “In an effort to stamp out failure-case outliers, we developed a methodology which also prevented success-case outliers, and as we attempted to prevent more and more failure cases, we prevented more and more success cases, until all we had left was the middle, but we kept applying these same norms which eventually became ‘accountability for accountability’s sake, with no consideration of overall performance’”, but someone should really do the actual research :-)

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                Would be fascinating for someone to an anthropological study of how the advice morphed from sabotage to “best practice”.

                Probably a case of “too much of a good thing”. Most of these are tolerable or even beneficial if done in moderation. It’s only when you go to the extremes and stay there that this becomes sabotage.

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                  Exactly, if any of these behaviors were bad under all circumstances, then it would be in our collective consciousness that it is destructive behavior. So what makes this sabotage here deadly effective is the fact that you hide your malicious intentions between many meta layers. Like “yeah, we all want to make some progress here, but we also want to do things the proper way, so the question is where we draw the line”, so while giving the appearance of cooperation, you’re introducing yet another discussion!

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                Apparently my last 9-5 job used this as their policy manual.

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                  I guess our saboteurs do it unconsciously, or at least I would hope so. But it is really interesting to see that those technics are really applied today… Especially the channel one. My guess is that it is also out of laziness or lacks of balls as decision can be offloaded and/or postponed.