derailed train

15 July 2024

Intentional Train Wrecks: The Official Guide To Derailing Your Organization

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Guy Who Doesn’t Like One-Track Minds…

If you’ve ever thought a meeting could have been an email …

If you’ve ever been assigned a lot of responsibility but absolutely zero authority to make decisions…

If you’ve ever participated in a sub-committee dedicated to “efficiency enhancements and imperatives”…

And if you’ve ever wondered whether all that bureaucracy is part of some conspiracy… well, you just might be right.

No solutions here — sorry — but it might give you some ice-cold comfort knowing that similar (mal)practices were once part of U.S. government guidelines on how to derail enemy organizations. Really.

Behold this excerpt from the Office of Strategic Services Simple Sabotage Field Manual (1944), now declassified by the CIA:

Yes, that’s a step-by-step approach on how to weaponize bureaucracy to sabotage organizations. You might painfully recognize those actions (“inactions”?) as “the way things are done around here.”

And to think that all happened before Slack (the meeting that never ends).

Now, I’m not suggesting that you eye your colleagues with suspicion (unless they’re middle managers — always suspect them). I do dare you to rewrite these guidelines, distribute them as part of an “action plan,” and see who gives your recommendation a thumbs up.

Or, more likely, who decides to “double click” on it, “run it up the flagpole,” and “touch base later.”

Some secret agents are licensed to kill. The most lethal ones wield three-part authorization forms and meetings to plan for meetings.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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