Monday, October 19, 2015

Office Spaced

You know that you can get all sorts of helpful advice from your government - local, state, federal, moon - about everything from raising delphiniums to filing your own will.  Governments publish all sorts of public publications, usually for free - the local Farm Bureau, for instance, puts out pamphlets on how to enrich your soil, and they are dirt cheap.

Hey, listen, I am listening to The Outlaws Green Grass and High Tides while I type this, so of course, I am trying to keep up with their tempo and falling a bit short.  Good jokes sometimes have to be sacrificed for fast ones.

Anyhow, an official government agency, back in 1944, put out a book about how to operate the organizational aspects of a business, and it might be fun to look at the list below and see how many of them apply to the place where you work:  My unasked-for comments follow in red:

  • “Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken to expedite decisions.”  And repeat the magic words "But we've ALWAYS done it this way!" as often as possible
  • Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.” Because nothing says 'tomorrow' like 'yesterday.'
  • “When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.” An elephant is a horse, as designed by a committee.
  • "Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.”  Ever notice how a trained paramedic working at the scene of a gory auto accident doesn't concern herself with whether the driver was wearing a seat belt, or who ran the red light, or anything that does not involve the immediate situation?
  • “Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.”  Yes, for the love of all that's good and holy, make sure the minutes of last month's subcommittee meetings reflect fully the views and opinions of somebody's nephew who only works here because the carwash is closed for winter.
  • “Refer back to a matter decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.”  Nothing is ever final, finally.
  • “Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.” When deciding whether to use blue/black or jet black ink on the logo of the internal company newsletter, take your time deciding! Communicating information can wait!
  • “Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Raise the question of whether [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.” Argue endlessly about whether the instant matter should be handled by Budget or Finance or Budget & Finance.
And now comes the big surprise I didn't tell you about.  If you recognize some of these management practices from your office or carwash or whatever, it is definitely time to revamp the way you all do your business, because these were all taken directly from a book written in 1944.   And it's not so much that they are therefore even older than ballpoint pens.

These are all business techniques published in a document called “Simple Sabotage Field Manual.” The U.S. Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA) put it out as a fake guide for our European spies to leave lying around, the better to undermine the Axis powers we fought.

It's like leaving a recipe out with instructions to use half a cup of cayenne pepper in your bread pudding.  Someone who didn't know better would follow the directions exactly and cause the top of Aunt Millicent's head to come off at Sunday dinner.

There's a good chance that handing out inane advice helped us win World War II.  So show this to your boss, point out the error of his/her ways, and then go back and get your resume ready.  You'll be sending it out soon!

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