2 min read

Software sabotage

By Rob Knight

Do you ever get the feeling that your organization is less productive than it could be? That you would get so much more done if it wasn’t for the too-long and too-frequent meetings, the urgent messages about things that don’t matter, or the unwieldy project management system takes more effort to maintain than the real work does?

If so, you might be suffering from software sabotage. It’s probably not intentional, but your tools might be hurting more than they are helping.

Back in 1944, the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA, distributed a guide for its field agents. These agents managed spies behind enemy lines, often volunteers from countries under occupation. The guide suggests ways that a saboteur could interrupt important supply lines, destroy or damage equipment, or disrupt communications, using simple methods available to ordinary people with no special training. The final section, titled “General Interference with Organizations and Production”, describes how sabotage can even be performed by knowledge workers, bureaucrats, and managers.

An image showing the first four suggestions for organizational sabotage from the OSS report
How many of these have you seen?

But how? If you are a knowledge worker or a manager, what do you do? Well, according to the OSS, if you really want to sabotage your organization, you should do things like this:

Now take a moment to think about the software tools you use. Do they encourage unnecessary meetings? Pointless communication that goes to more people than it needs to? Unimportant work taking up more space than things that really matter? Interruptions throughout the day? Perhaps the saboteur in our midst is the app we use to manage our work!

This is why we designed Legra to avoid these self-sabotaging features.

These basic features are designed to work with the human realities of collaboration, which is often inter-personal rather than committee-based. Information overload, poor quality of communication, and constant interruption are built into the design of many popular productivity apps, but their effect is to make us less productive. Our colleagues haven’t been trained as saboteurs by the OSS, but we’re all trapped in workflows that cause us to sabotage each other’s productivity on a daily basis.