A CIA Manual for Inaction

Perhaps you’ve seen this making the rounds on Facebook:  in the 1940’s, the CIA created a sabotage guide for citizens of France and other occupied countries.  You know, to screw with the Nazis, which is pretty much All Good.  This manual was declassified within the past ten years, and it provides an intriguing glimpse into human nature.

The manual contains the sorts of things you’d expect to find:  how to wreck equipment, ruin fuel, disrupt communications.  You know, hardcore sabotage stuff, like this nugget:


How to Wreck Equipment – What We’d EXPECT to See, and the CIA Delivers!
(You Put the Grain in the Gasoline and Close the Tank Up – Sung to the tune of “Lime in the Coconut”)

But the Advice on Sabotaging a Company is the Unexpected Gem!

THIS, folks, is the winner:


In the Same CIA Manual: How to Wreck an Organization!

Let’s reflect for a moment on what we are seeing:

  1. Taken out of context, we could imagine this to be “friendly” advice.  “Advocating caution,” for instance, could quite plausibly be a positive behavior – what’s wrong with that?
  2. But this is in the SAME manual as wrecking machines, derailing trains, and burning down factories.  So we absolutely cannot mistake the intent.  This is meant to be harmful, and not in a small way.
  3. And this was written by one of the world’s ABSOLUTE BEST organizations at underhanded WARFARE.  They had the resources of an entire nation behind them, and this is advice they were giving on how to make nations easier to INVADE.

Let that sink in:  this is how to harm a MORTAL ENEMY during WARTIME.  And it comes from an organization that, even in the 1940’s, knew what it was doing, and had access to virtually unlimited resources.  Just in case you aren’t 100% catching the vibe I’m trying to convey, check out this little morsel:


From the Same Manual:  How to Derail Trains – an Act that KILLS People (Including Innocents)

My Takeaway:  Traditional BI is (Unintentional) Corporate Sabotage

You probably see this coming, but traditional Business Intelligence methodology is eerily similar to the corporate sabotage advice, in the bad way.  This goes well beyond BI, of course, and “captures” many kinds of corporate bureaucratic behavior, but I think it’s particularly applicable in traditional BI:

  1. The old way involves tremendous amounts of planning.  Whatever you do, don’t dive right in.  Draw up tremendous amounts of documentation first, and generate that through an interminable series of meetings.
  2. Responsibility, propriety, and authority are all salient themes of the old school philosophy.
  3. Dramatic short-cuts and cost-savings are treated with suspicion, rather than welcomed.
  4. Tremendous amounts of time are invested into infrastructure before any results are actually delivered.
  5. Preparation, responsibility, and methodology are all placed “above” results as the appropriate measuring sticks for project design and success.

Now, for perspective, I’m NOT outright dismissing the ideas of planning, responsibility, and infrastructure.  “A wing and a prayer” is not at ALL how we “roll” in the new world.  I’m just saying that those things above shouldn’t be so heavily prioritized and revered as they are in the traditional approach.  In the traditional model, those things come FIRST, before we ever can see results and validate that those results are in fact what we need.  In the new model, those things are a CLOSE SECOND to results.  It’s not a huge demotion for the principles of responsibility.  But the impact of this subtle shift in mindset is nothing short of MASSIVE.

Does this still sound harsh?


Some of you may still think that I’m just being a jerk.  I’d like you to reconsider that, because in my heart, I’m not being nasty – I’m actually trying to be helpful.  Remember, before joining the “biz-first” self-service BI revolution, I used to help build traditional BI software – software that was built for the traditional methodologies, and actually necessitated those methodologies in the first place.  I was part of the problem, folks.  So even as I’m creating snarky graphics illustrating my point, I’m aiming a good chunk of that snark at Rob Collie circa 2002.

What I’m trying to say is that we should stop needlessly harming ourselves.  The CIA is not trying to disrupt our plans (I don’t think), so why play into the hands of an enemy we don’t even have?  I encourage the skeptics to open their minds to the possibility that we absolutely CAN deliver responsible results 20-50x faster and cheaper than we could with the traditional tools and methodologies.  And if we can do that, that is NOT a threat to anyone’s career, because in the end, we just end up doing MORE projects.

And this new way, once you’ve tried it, has an incredible side effect:  everyone actually gets HAPPIER.  Which is not something you expect from technology projects.  Joy, harmony, and satisfaction – with a side of transformational business impact, ROI, and all of those “hard” metrics that get the attention of the C-suite.

Come on in.  Plenty of room in the pool, and the water is a perfect temperature Smile

More on Sabotage!

I encourage thoughtful readers to read the last four pages of the document in their entirety, which I will include below – just click on each image for larger versions:



(Click Images for Larger Versions)

Download the Entire PDF Here