Maybe you thought those endless, sleep-inducing, unproductive meetings were simply a symptom of the way American business is conducted in the 21st Century. Turns out they can also be used as weapons of war.  

Anne Fisher, writing on the Fortune magazine website, highlights a new book, Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace, by Bob Frisch, Robert M. Galford and Cary Greene.

And in the book, the authors reveal the existence of the “Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” published in 1944 by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA).

It was a guide for European spies on how to undermine the Axis powers from within, writes Fisher.

The overall idea seems to be that the more time Axis bureaucrats and officials wasted in fruitless meetings, the less they’d be able to accomplish,

Ring any bells?

Here’s the blueprint

Fisher excerpted the eight tactics the OSS recommended for tripping up an Axis agency from the inside:

  1. Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken 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. 
  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 and resolutions. 
  6. Refer back to a matter 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 [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

“These tactics proved “incredibly subtle, and devastatingly destructive,” say the authors.

“We’re not suggesting that enemies are lurking in your midst,” the authors say in the book. “But the odds are great that some individuals have unwittingly taken a page from (the OSS manual). Left unchecked, their behaviors will undermine your group or organization, slowing down its — and your — best efforts.”

Tough to argue with that.

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