Simple Sabotage Field Guide

You should read this book: Simple Sabotage Field Manual, by Robert M. Galford.

It’s an amazing little book that could teach your nonprofit staff groups, boards of directors, and committees to spot and stop activities that undermine your organization’s productivity.

In January 1944, the OSS (or Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA) published an extraordinary classified document designed to train European resistance movements in tactics of sabotage. These tactics were published as the Simple Sabotage Field Manual and smuggled across Europe. The manual detailed easy ways to disrupt and demoralize the enemy’s institutions without being detected.

While “slashing tires, draining fuel tanks, starting fires” and other direct methods of sabotage might be effective on a certain level, they argued that these methods waste materials, people power and time. The simple sabotage methods, however, would be “a constant and tangible drag on the war efforts of the enemy.”

Ironically, these sabotage methods are things we see in our organizations every day.

Simple Sabotage techniques:

  • Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

  • Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

  • 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.

  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.

  • Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste, which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

  • Be worried about the propriety of any decision – raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

For each of these methods, Galford offers antidotes that combat them. Check it out here.

If you’re interested in more ways to increase your board’s productivity, join us for our upcoming workshop, ENGAGE: The Board that Works. You’ll create a board development plan, learn to engage your board members in meaningful work that supports the organization, and discover ways to ignite your board’s commitment to fundraising.


Laura Headshot 2014

Laura Alexander, MA, CFRE