back to article What can the 1944 OSS manual teach us before we all return to sabotage the office?

Don’t wish me a Happy New Year: it doesn’t work. In fact, I think your annual good wishes may be hexing them. There have always been anni beati and horribiles but things really started to go downhill after David Jones escaped back to his home planet 10 days into 2016. Since then, it has been regularly proposed that each …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wow, after reading this I realised that I used to work for a public sector group that was in fact the most dedicated and effective guerilla fighting unit on earth!

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Devil

      Private sector companies will give you a run for your money.

      The only thing that's missing is outsourcing decisions to consultants and outsourcing production to the third world.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I believe that someone, somewhere as a form of humor, took this book and re-titled it "Management Handbook" and everyone took it seriously.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        as a form of humor,

        Or perhaps as the very embodiment of the techniques in the book itself.

  2. Shadow Systems

    I've got a better list...

    My Skippy's List.

    Of course I'm Not Allowed to DO anything on it, but if I'm going to start breaking those rules then I've got an AWESOME todo list!

    Just out of curiosity, do you know where I can find a gross of tea candles, a giant roll of all cotton twine, and about a trillion swizle sticks? Asking for a friend. *Cough* =-D

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Terminator

    That list!

    I am so forwarding that management part to an old boss... with a "Remember when this or that happened... next to each one!

    Happy New Year Mr. Dabbs!

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: That list!

      That list, sounds very much as though it is a fundamental part of both MBA syllabuses (syllabii?) and civil service promotion exams.

      For anyone who would like to be part of a list, I have a copy of the Anarchists Cookbook that I can lend you, that I have had since the seventies when I was a keen squaddie.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: That list!

        About the Anarchists Cookbook: Last time I looked I spotted so many places where I thought "You should NOT do this the way described" that I assumed it was to trick wannabe anarchists into blowing themselves up in their homes. Stuff like totally neglecting cooling when cooking certain things (nitroglycerin IIRC). Runaway heat when making explosives can easily spoil your day. Also your neighbors day.

        Kindly never share that thing without a warning along those lines.

        1. Dr. G. Freeman

          Re: That list!

          During the house arrest we've been under since March, been writing a version of the Anarchists' Cookbook that works, mostly out of sheer boredom, and to see if I can.

          Apart from the spiced prawn* recipes, going quite well.

          (not in the original cookbook, but was in a similar "underground" publication.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: That list!

            please share

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: That list!

          Kindly never share that thing without a warning along those lines.

          Depends on who you're sharing it with.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: That list!

        That list, sounds very much as though it is a fundamental part of both MBA syllabuses (syllabii?)

        Sillybus.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: That list!

          Syllabub?

          1. chivo243 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: That list!

            I know two other people who would piss themselves.... Syllabub!

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: That list!

      LOL, I could sent that booklet to several people I have known with "This is you at work. Every single day.", mostly low/mid-level manglement types.

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        Re: That list!

        You. Me. And just about anybody in an organisation with more than one person.

    3. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: That list!

      Happy New Year Mr. Dabbs!

      And to you, chivo.

  4. Mr Dogshit

    passengers?

    No such thing, they're called "customers" now.

    1. Whiskers

      Re: passengers?

      Calling them "passengers" implies the acceptance that at some stage, travel will be involved. "Customers" are merely applying for a service or goods; delivery is at best negotiable. ("Patrons" are even worse off; they are expected to pay, but delivery is largely a matter of chance).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: passengers?

        Your definition is one that crossed my mind very regularly when commuting via British Snail. Keep would-be travellers in range of the forecourt concessions at Marylebone.

    2. Bubba Von Braun

      Re: passengers?

      Nah, Now they are called "Guests" that way when you have done something that disagrees you can be quickly moved from the guest to "Karen or Geoff / Nut Job / Trumplican" and ejected with prejudice :-)

    3. Grikath

      Re: passengers?

      Nononono... You can't call them "customers" .. that implies they have actual rights and expectations...

      The correct terms nowadays are "guests" who have a "travel experience".

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: passengers?

        More like sheep with a cattle-car experience.

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    It is certainly clear

    that the behaviour described in that charming little booklet continues to this day. And I thought it was simple inefficiency - have they perhaps not noticed that the war ended in their fathers' or grandfathers' time?

    I wonder if the makers of Chinese tools have read the bit about blunt and soft cutting tools?

    1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: It is certainly clear

      "I wonder if the makers of Chinese tools have read the bit about blunt and soft cutting tools?"

      As a frequent user of such kit I can confirm that they seem quite apt in this area.

      Indeed, some of my tools even come pre-broken for my convenience.

      Better ones in my other pocket -----------------------------------------------------------------^^^

  6. Persona Silver badge

    Morale

    This all seems to be underestimating peoples competence.

    I've worked with plenty who if they tried to be more incompetent they would cock it up to the extent of being marginally less bad than usual.

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Which

    country are we at war with?

    Because I'm now thinking that about 50% of the staff are in fact enemy agents intent on destroying any production whatso ever...

    1. Whiskers

      Re: Which

      I rather think we are at war with ourselves (whoever "we" are).

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Which country are we at war with?

      EastAsia naturally.

      1. mtp
        Big Brother

        Re: Which country are we at war with?

        You are mistaken. We are at war with Oceania and always have been. EastAsia is and always will be our ally. Rejoyce in the increased chocolate ration..

        1. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Big Brother

          Re: Which country are we at war with?

          "You are mistaken. We are at war with Oceania and always have been. EastAsia is and always will be our ally. Rejoyce in the increased chocolate ration.."

          Yes. I heard the 2021 ration will be increased, from 100g to 80g.

          1. Tim99 Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Which country are we at war with?

            Thought-crime: The ration was increased from thirty grammes to twenty. Big Brother and the Thought Police are always watching, for your own good.

          2. Yes Me Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Which country are we at war with?

            I am greatly deceived. I understood that unicorns would be prancing on the fields above the White Cliffs of Dover by today, but instead I read in the Grauniad that the fields will become a lorry park instead. Perhaps my calendar is mistaken about it being 2021?

            1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

              Re: Which country are we at war with?

              Perhaps the unicorns are the companies providing EV lorries?

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Which

      We have met the enemy, and he is us. —Walt Kelly, 1970

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: Which

      We are at war with the capitalist rentiers who own the company, obviously. Who is most hurt by these tactics?

  8. Howard Sway

    Reads like a guide of how to achieve maximum possible efficiency rather than sabotage

    At least in a company of more than 2 employees, following this will get you to a level of market-competitive efficiency as nowhere else will be much better.

    However if you want to actually sabotage things, there's one guaranteed way to do it. Introduce new systems and procedures as part of an "efficiency drive". Nothing succeeds better in reducing efficiency in a big company than a conscious top-down attempt to improve it.

    1. Norman Nescio

      Re: Reads like a guide of how to achieve maximum possible efficiency rather than sabotage

      However if you want to actually sabotage things, there's one guaranteed way to do it. Introduce new systems and procedures as part of an "efficiency drive". Nothing succeeds better in reducing efficiency in a big company than a conscious top-down attempt to improve it.

      In addition:

      1) Re-organise to improve efficiency. Preferably every half-year.

      2) Take a flexible manual process and insist that people use an inflexible computerised process as its replacement. For bonus points, computerise an existing process without talking to, or taking advice from existing users, but only from their managers.

      3) Require people to account for time used in 15-minute intervals in a mandatory time-recording system, and ensure that minor administrative work has no cost-centre or booking code, so teaching people to be creative (lie) and causing untold strife over which codes to use and who administers what. For bonus points, the time used for completing and reconciling time-sheets has no associated time code, so management have no clue how much time is wasted. Apparently all employee time is chargeable and people are mightily efficient...

      4) Ensure that retention periods for the organisation's email (for arse-covering reasons) is too short, so important information goes missing.

      5) Mandate that all important information is placed in SharePoint, with no control over the structure, so you end up with a massive hairball of interconnected documents, most of which are out of date and/or irrelevant.

      6) Mandate the use of the organisation's document templates, for which there are several incompatible versions, all of which set up by trainees with no knowledge of document formats. For bonus points make sure they are not available on the Intranet so that various different people swear they have the original source document to be used.

      NN

      1. Robert 22

        Re: Reads like a guide of how to achieve maximum possible efficiency rather than sabotage

        "Mandate the use of the organisation's document templates"

        The organization I worked for improved on this.

        There were forms for everything and you had to make sure that you used them if you wanted to get anywhere. However, they were always being changed and it was possible to find different versions of the same form and none of them were dated. And there was always someone along the line who would insist (after several weeks had gone by) that you needed to resubmit with the correct forms.

        Then some outside consultant dreamed up an incredibly complicated format for our internal publications. It was quite possible to find yourself trying to put together a technical document in MS Word only to find that the formatting was not only complicated, it was extremely unstable - that last trivial change would cause everything to move around.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Reads like a guide of how to achieve maximum possible efficiency rather than sabotage

          "trivial change would cause everything to move around"

          Isn't that a feature of Word, whatever the template?

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Reads like a guide of how to achieve maximum possible efficiency rather than sabotage

          Did you get the memo about the new cover sheets required on your TPS reports?

  9. Bruce Ordway

    Section 12 General Devices for Lowering Morale and Crating Confusion... nice

    a.) Give lengthy and...

    b.) Report imaginary...

    c.) Act Stupid.

    d.) Be as irritable...

    e.) Misunderstand all...

    Hmmmnn..... these remind me of so many.

  10. macjules Silver badge

    Home Broadband

    At the moment I am contracting to a client that requires me to use a Citrix receiver to logon to their VPN, then to log in to a remote virtual desktop and THEN login in from there to a virtual development environment similar to Amazon Workspaces. Metering this I discovered that my broadband can just about handle this during the daytime so long as the children are at school. I am seriously considering setting up a separate billable zone with choked bandwidth and speed in order to be able to charge the client and to be able to produce a monthly expense report for usage.

    Anyone know of software that can do this, including the reports? I am thinking along the lines of a new router reflashed with DD-WRT, since it can produce the zones and a full activity report.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Home Broadband

      My VDSL modem has the option of setting one of the LAN ports for guest access, disallowing access from that LAN to the common one, but that requires a separate machine, or one with a second network card that you assign to a VM running that client's software. Which you would be able to throttle as well as log data use under control from the VM host.

      I've also used a smallish but sufficiently powerful OpenBSD box when we were sharing ADSL with two other people. Of course these were different machines on separate LANs, and the OpenBSD firewall (with a quad port network interface) not only kept them all isolated, it also allocated bandwidth with a guaranteed minimum[0] of 25%[1] of the outside speed and up to double that if that much was available. If I'm not mistaken it can log bandwidth use, but I wasn't using that.

      [0] unless they hadn't paid their share of the subscription, then it would be throttled to 56kbit. Good luck playing online poker over that.

      [1] pay for 25%, you get 25%.

  11. Jason Bloomberg

    Brlliant

    May I be first to say, on this 1st of Johnson 0001, "Happy New Year". We should see how well it's going by the 1st of Farage.

    1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Brlliant

      Happy New Year to you too, Jason.

    2. Tim99 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Brlliant

      I expect May (Theresa) will be renamed too...

  12. macjules Silver badge
    Meh

    How many of the following behaviours do you recognise in your own colleagues and line managers?

    I think everything that follows that is clearly visible in Microsoft Teams.

  13. taxman

    21st Century Quibbles

    Sorry, I can't work from home due to the Tier restrictions on travel. Oh, you want me to work at home not from home! Why didn't you say so. You were going by the HR instructions? Well, if you think about it the only folk here who work from the office are those who travel about. The rest of us work in the office. So yeah, really we should be being told to work in the home or at home.

    Do you think we should get something put together to present to HR so that we can have clarity on just where they want us to work: at home or at the office or from the office or from home depending on what the job role is and tier restrictions are?

    Are you really sure you meant that?

  14. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    MBA Syllabus

    The potential saboteur should discover what types of faulty decisions and non-cooperation are normally found in his kind of work and should then devise his sabotage so as to enlarge that "margin for error".

    Well, there's a pit with no bottom...

  15. cd

    Obviously lazy satire...

    The original manual is obviously either the product of...

    a) a lazy jobsworth who merely took examples from the hierarchy they worked in and typed them up, sanguinely aware that they would not be comprehended as criticism by those in charge.

    b) a master satirist, perhaps descended from the Swift bloodline, who also realised that the targeted would not grok the aim and that it would serve as a subtext for all practical people.

    c) all of the above, but I wasn't alive then.

    On another note: One fortunate thing about 2021 is that it cannot possibly be worse than the preceding years, we are now on track to have a splendid year of great relief. The polar caps will not continue to melt, causing a rotational imbalance and a 90 degree tilt of the planet. No explosives will go off without deliberation. No further plagues or virii will visit. Those earthquakes/unexplained loud booms in the southwest United States that aren't showing up on the USGS reporting are a mere figment, not a sign of the impending separation of California from the rest of the continent along the Walker Lane and the resulting incursion of seawater on all lower elevation cities in the region.

    Everything will be perfect this year.

    /s (which stands for sincerity)

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Obviously lazy satire...

      > cannot possibly be worse than the preceding...

      David Cameron. Worst prime minister since Lord North. Then,

      Theresa May. Then,

      Al Johnson.

      My money's on Chris Grayling next.

      -A.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Obviously lazy satire...

      You utter bastard...

  16. Blackjack Silver badge

    Alistair Dabbs found were those "Gurus" companies used to hire to.improve things got their material.

    Amazing that meetings are actually sabotage as defined by the CIA predecessor.

  17. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Brexit Due Diligence

    Have the Legal Beagles of Vulture Central looked at the Brexit implications of Alistair's contract for [SFTWS]? Just wondering if the appropriate forms have been filled out, clearances obtained, qualifications (what qualifications hear you say) checked for EU/Blighty equivalence and recognition etc.

    Otherwise I fear this may be the last [SFTWS] that we see until all that is sorted out

  18. Irony Deficient Silver badge

    7th century quibbles, ab Urbe condita edition

    There have always been anni beatum and horribilis

    Anni beati and horribiles — the adjectives also need to be masculine nominative plural, to match anni.

    Anni mirabiles instead of beati would have been a nice nod to Dryden’s poem:

    In fortune’s empire blindly thus we go,

    And wander after pathless destiny;

    Whose dark resorts since prudence cannot know,

    In vain it would provide for what shall be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 7th century quibbles, ab Urbe condita edition

      Anni beatum beati and horribilis horribiles — the adjectives also need to be masculine nominative plural, to match anni

      Now write it out 100 times, and if it's not done by sunrise I'll cut your balls off. Hail Caesar...

  19. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Buggerit!

    "Stop being productive! Destroy morale! Cock everything up, time and time again! Do all this and your promotion is assured!"

    I've been doing this for years and I'm still awaiting my promotion. <sigh> I guess my boss never read The Manual. Mind you, that's not surprising. Some of the words were more than one syllable and there's no pictures.

  20. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Declassified in 2008?

    Hugh? It was clearly leaked as The BOFH Field Manual years before that!

  21. Robert 22

    It seems likely that the Trump administration's Presidential Transition Plan is based on this document.

  22. DrXym Silver badge

    I read that book when it was declassified

    And there I was thinking I invented some of those things.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I read that book when it was declassified

      I'm pretty certain that book was posted to Usenet long before it was declassified.

      I don't know anybody who claims to have invented most of that stuff ... but I sure as hell have met some management-types who seem to have it embedded in their DNA.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Way of the Weasel

    What's scary about that booklet, is how it describes a typical corporate culture.

    Scott Adams wrote a book called The Way of the Weasel, which is even more terrifying.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: The Way of the Weasel

      I remember reading the Dogbert's [Top Secret] Management Handbook nearly twenty years ago.

      My comment to friends was that I wish I'd read it five years earlier, cos I would have been able to figure out which chapter my then Mangler was on, and could anticipate his next 'wonderful' command!

  24. clyde666

    404 error

    Getting a 404 page error this morning when following the link to Simple Sabotage PDF.

    Getting a customised CIA 404 page.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 404 error

      I assumed this was deliberate. Directing people to broken links as another wee act of disrution.

    2. TSM

      Re: 404 error

      Now on the Department of Homeland Security's site instead, at https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=750070

  25. Jim Whitaker
    Black Helicopters

    Alternative location

    Try here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26184/page-images/26184-images.pdf

  26. Goat Boy

    I too feel that Mr Jones' exit was the point at which we sat our bums on the bristly mat of fate atop Shitshow-Skelter and gently pushed off...

  27. Potemkine! Silver badge

    No Future

    "Do I feel lucky"? Well, do you, punk?

    Other fragments of wisdom:

    - Never do something today that you can do tomorrow.

    - Don't nap in the morning, you won't know what to do in the afternoon.

    - Rephrase what people ask you to do with a slight variation making them understand you did not understand their request, and forcing them to repeat. If possible, do it the day after their request, to add a delay.

    - Use extensively the BOFH excuse generator.

  28. AbeSapian

    You Scared the CIA

    Apparently your article scared the CIA because they pulled down the link to the PDF. I had to find it on another site with a google search.

    After searching the CIA site a couple of times, I wonder who will be knocking on my door next.

  29. Flywheel Silver badge

    Funny

    S'funny .. who'd have thought that designed all-in-one inkjet printers in 1944?

  30. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Silver lining

    While the number of covid-related deaths is large, the covid virus seems to have been a cure for both flu and pneumonia, both of which have seen a massive reduction in the number of seasonal deaths usually attributed to those causes every year. The number of industrial accidents has also plunged, especially in the catering & restaurant sectors.

  31. ecofeco Silver badge

    So it's a manual for...

    ...management.

    Got it.

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