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Can a World War II Manual Help You Sabotage your Organization’s Productivity More Effectively?

Good advice can be found in strange places, and perhaps one of the stranger places is a manual produced by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was distributed to individuals in Axis nations in 1944 who might be sympathetic to the Allied war effort. It was declassified in 2008 and is now conveniently available on the CIA’s web site.

The theme of the manual is very clear and timeless: in any organization, productivity and order can be easily sabotaged by enterprising individuals. For your delectation, I will reprint some of OSS’s sage advice to organizations and managers. Their relevance to proposal professionals and proposal production should become readily apparent.

• Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible, illustrate your points with lengthy anecdotes, and throw in frequent accounts of personal experiences.
• Whenever possible, refer all matters to large committees for further study and consideration.
• Raise irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
• Haggle over precise wording in all communications.
• Refer back to matters considered at previous meetings and re-open old questions once again.

• Always assign the most unimportant jobs first and make sure that the important ones are assigned to the most inefficient employees.
• Insist on perfect work and send back work products for frequent review and revision.
• Be pleasant to inefficient employees and give them undeserved promotions.
• Schedule conferences and meetings when there is critical work to be done.
• Multiply procedures and ensure that three people have to approve everything when one person would do.

I hope that this manual has provided you with practical advice about improving your productivity more effectively. You can find the original manual at

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