Are you a saboteur at work? How the CIA made organisations ineffective

Picture the scene.

It’s 1944 and the world is at war. The United States’ Office for Strategic Services (now the CIA) deployed undercover agents in occupied countries such as France and Norway.

Agents were provided with The Simple Field Manual – a guide on how to infiltrate and sabotage enemy organisations.



Below is a summary of directives. How many of these do you recognise in your own organisation? How are you unwittingly sabotaging yourself?


Organisations and Conferences

  • Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions
  • Make “speeches”. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences
  • When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration”
  • Attempt to make committees as large as possible — never less than five
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions
  • Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision
  • Advocate “caution”. Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on




  • In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers
  • Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw
  • To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions
  • Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done
  • Multiply paperwork in plausible ways. Start duplicate files
  • 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
  • Apply all regulations to the last letter




  • Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job
  • Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can
  • Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right
  • Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skilful worker



The Simple Field Manual is now declassified. It can be found in its entirety on the CIA’s website. See:


Takeaway: Organisations are facing enough challenges without making things harder for themselves. How many of these practices do you recognise your organisation inflicting on itself? Use this list to show your Leaders, Managers and Frontline staff how they could be working on behalf of the competitors you are fighting every day.

And if they are really that good, we hear MI6 are recruiting.