Canadian Manufacturing

How to ruin your business, CIA-style

CIA tips for industrial sabotage in WWII look surprisingly like the productivity-draining behaviour displayed in some companies every day



happy business leaders handshaking at meetingFAIRFAX, Va.—In 1944, the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), created the Simple Sabotage Field Manual to help teach underground resistance fighters in German-occupied territory methods to disrupt the military-industrial supply chain.

Funny thing: many of the instructions in the manual remain surprisingly relevant today. In fact, the tactics devised by the CIA are often on display in many modern companies. Though the intention is far less benign than sabatoge, this quick peak into the past shows how easily productivity and order can be undermined.

Here’s a list of five particularly timeless tips from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual:

  • Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
  • Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.
  • Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  • Let cutting tools grow dull. They will be inefficient, will slow down production, and may damage the materials and parts you use them on.
  • While loading or unloading, handle cargo carelessly in order to cause damage. Arrange the cargo so that the weakest and lightest crates and boxes will be at the bottom of the hold, while the heaviest ones are on top of them. Put hatch covers and tarpaulins on sloppily, so that rain and deck wash will injure the cargo.
  • For managers: Misunderstand orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.

Any of these look familiar? Check out the full document as a PDF here

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