Sabotage Your Way to Success!

Can you guess which is contemporary law enforcement management-speak & which is covert government sabotage?

By Elijah Woodward  |   Oct 31, 2016

n 1944 the Office of Strategic Services—AKA, the CIA’s grandfather—put out a manual called “Simple Sabotage.” The premise was simple: Sabotage the enemy to slow down production and effectiveness. Since blowing up railway bridges usually raises eyebrows, they suggested more nefarious, covert methods that would slow down productivity. You know, little things like not refilling toilet paper and jamming bits of hair and dirt into keyholes to make it difficult to get things done.

Pages 28 – 29 cover management and supervisors. I was struck at the similarities to what I read and some things I’ve heard and read recently. So, I took the CIA’s advice and rephrased it to try my hand at becoming an executive management guru in 2016.

The left column is the exact verbiage from the manual, the right column is organizational genius. After reading this, we need to ask ourselves why we’re sabotaging ourselves these days.

CIA Simple Sabotage Manual

Executive Management Guru 2016

Demand written orders.Make sure you have any orders in writing. It’s good to ensure communication is thorough and documented.
“Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.A healthy debate is never a bad thing, so feel free to engage with issuing authorities about orders. Use written documentation and correspondence to document your discussions about orders, and to ensure there’s no misunderstanding.
Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.If you have a project mostly done or completed early, don’t submit it before deadline. Deadlines are typically there for a reason: wait until a deadline arrives to deliver. This will ensure proper timing for the overall efficiency of the organization.
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.If you’re almost out of necessary supplies, hold off on ordering new supplies until it’s absolutely critical. This will help the budget and you can stretch your dollars further.
Order high-quality materials that are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.Demand nothing but the best. Quality, quality, quality! And if someone wants to challenge you on it, feel free to debate them about it. If our people and our projects are worth doing, they’re worth doing well!
In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.Developmental opportunities are key, so if you have very high performers and very poor performers, give out unimportant jobs first, and probably to high performers. As the important tasks are given to poor performers, their morale will increase as they realize they are getting important tasks, and production will increase as a result. This will result in overall improvement since the poorest performers will begin to improve.
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.Even in the small things, we must demand perfection; otherwise this will lead to a slippery slope. If a report or work product is anything less than spectacular, send it back for revision. But, give people hope and occasionally turn a blind eye to obviously faulty work since this will prove you are human.
When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.New workers develop best with a challenge. Don’t just spoon-feed them information. Intuitive learning occurs when misleading, incomplete, or very vague instruction occurs. This allows for the employee’s own creativity and innovation to shine through.
To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.Remember that high-quality performers are usually those who most relish a challenge. Make sure you judge their work with a very critical eye, more so than others. At the same time, poor performers are usually low in morale, so it’s important to encourage these workers with frequent praise and promotions.
Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.Communication is key, so no matter what else is going in, it’s important to have meetings and briefings to ensure everyone is on the same page with the organization’s strategic mission and how the individual impacts that.
Multiply paperwork in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.Document, document, document! When possible, ensure that all activities are accompanied by some sort of documentation and paperwork. And if work is duplicated, this is acceptable since it provides more data points.
Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.If you have only one person giving something a blessing and clearing a project, it needs to be three. This additional oversight and accountability will prevent costly and needless mistakes. Things like issuing new equipment, pay checks, etc., must have redundant checks and balances.
Apply all regulations to the last letter.Discretion is oft-abused so it’s necessary to take all written orders, policies, and regulations as literally as possible. This will prevent issues down the road regarding hindsight being 20/20 since you clearly followed the literal letter of the law.
Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.Short-circuiting the chain of command or process and going directly to a source for information and answers usually causes more confusion since the rest of the chain of command is no longer “in the loop.” Never permit this activity since the expedited process will result in more explanation later. Staying in proper lanes is key to effective and efficient management.
Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.Anecdotes, personal experiences, and detailed stories often provide excellent context for explanations. Time is no concern when it comes to making sure people understand why they do what they do, so take all the time necessary to make sure everyone fully and deeply understands their contribution towards the overall mission.
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.Study, consideration, and committees are key for proper oversight, accountability, and ultimately transparency. To ensure the appearance of openness, a body of five people minimum must be utilized on committees.
Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.The precision of wording and communications is key. So much of our world has efficiency cut out of due to imprecise language. Take the time to ensure it’s right and precise.
Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.Armchair quarterbacking” is a term with strong negative connotations, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The most dangerous thing is to leave an old decision on the table and just let it be for the sake of decorum. Previously decided matters should always be evaluated to determine if they’re still the best choices given the current context.
Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.Reasonableness and caution: two things that could save so many so much if only they were applied up front and the first time around, rather than after the fact. “Haste makes waste” is becoming all the more obvious in our current world, so always feel free to take the time and make sure you get things right the first time.
Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.It’s important to remember that decisions must be made by the proper authorities, so make sure tasks and people are staying in their proper lanes. Do not be afraid to raise the question of whether or not your group is the best for a particular task. Senior and executive management typically have a lot on their plates, so raising this issue frequently with them will demonstrate your profound understanding to the strategic mission, as well as your practical impact.


Yes, we are sometimes our own worst enemy.


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Elijah Woodward
Elijah Woodward is the owner of, a security consulting company focusing on information and cyber security as well as physical security. He has 10 years of law enforcement experience working in patrol, motors, and community resources. He is a member of the FBI’s InfraGard program, and the High Technology Crime Investigator’s Association. Elijah believes that law enforcement is in a prime position to address the issues of cyber crime and fraud, and it will be cops at the local level who will have the greatest impact on these new crimes as they continue to plague our communities. Reach him at [email protected]