How to Kill Meetings and Demotivate People

I offer this to you in the hopes that it will help you identify and stop unproductive behavior from yourself or from your colleagues.

Back in World War II, the OSS (predecessor to the CIA) created a document called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual for ordinary citizens in occupied territory. The first half focuses on physical sabotage, like putting sand in the gears at a factory. The second, in my opinion, is more interesting.

“A second type of simple sabotage requires no destructive tools whatsoever… It is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit.

Simple Sabotage Field Manual

The manual is a quick read and fairly interesting – but here’s my favorite excerpt:

Narrator / New Yorker cartoon caption: “The second Netflix culture deck was much less successful than the first.”

I can think of specific meetings in the last month where any (and all) of these have happened… but for the modern reader and my own amusement, I’ve updated the list. 

Disclaimer: I am NOT advocating you do any of these things! I am advocating that you do the OPPOSITE. 

  1. Insist on strict process. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions. Require that a JIRA ticket be filed before any action can be taken.
  2. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length, especially over the women. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate comments about “disruption”, “innovation labs” or “Google does it this way”.
  3. When possible, refer all matters to steering committees for “further review from key stakeholders”. Attempt to make the committees as large and senior as possible – never less than five. Never set an agenda. Bonus points if you spend 5 minutes messing with the projector before showing an illegible dashboard screenshot.
  4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible. “What if we put this on the blockchain?”
  5. Haggle over precise wordings on PowerPoint slides. “Is this really a guiding principle? Or is it a strategic pillar?”
  6. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open that decision. Also known among practitioners as the “disagree and un-commit”.
  7. Create analysis paralysis wherever possible. Debate whether an action is “on strategy”. Insist on additional data, litigate assumptions, and add additional scenarios to “stress test”. Then say the model is “garbage in garbage out”. “What if the recession hits two quarters earlier?”
  8. Let legal, compliance, and risk have everything they want.
  9. Send Slack GIFs all day.

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