A Warning From a Manual

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Business columnist Suzanne Lucas asked her readers if they'd ever had a coworker who "who seemed genuinely more interested in ruining morale than in doing any work." Lucas then, tongue in cheek, suggested the amusing possibility that such a colleague might have been sent in by the CIA to sabotage the business. This is because the so many of the following items, taken from a 1944 CIA manual on how to sabotage a business, resemble things she has seen in the past:

  • 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.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
  • Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
  • "Misunderstand" orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Multiply paperwork in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
Lucas has food for thought regarding a few of these, and offers the following advice regarding the list:
It's worth your time to go through the CIA's complete list and see if any of these problems plague your department or company. If any do, it's time to stop them right now. When people ask why the change, direct them to the list. "Doing this is damaging to our business." Why would we want to do that?
So long as regulations, union rules, or fear of litigation aren't behind any of them, you can improve your business almost overnight.

On a serious note, some of the above might be to blame for some of these problems. In a couple of war stories from a Houston landlord, for example, I see a few of these, thanks to local regulations and the functionaries who enforce them (or pretend to).

Our deficient education system and culture produce enough people who "work" like this without our government forcing more of it down our throats with economic regulation and a tort system in dire need of reform. This column reminds me of an off-the-cuff remark by Glenn Reynolds about the previous administration, to the effect that Atlas Shrugged was a warning, and not a manual.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

I find it rather grimly humorous that a number of suggestions amount to "Follow the rules that are in place". Refusing to take shortcuts, following approved channels, questioning jurisdiction--all things that our regulatory overlords demand we do, and all things the CIA acknowledges will harm productivity. It's almost as if having government deeply involved with business makes business less efficient!

Gus Van Horn said...

As do I.