Back to: Three Unexpectedly Good Things VR Will Probably Cause | Forward to: Upcoming Appearances: Washington DC and Baltimore

Updating a classic

In 1944, the Office of Strategic Services—the predecessor of the post-war CIA—was concerned with sabotage directed against enemies of the US military. Among their ephemera, declassified and published today by the CIA, is a fascinating document called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual (PDF). It's not just about blowing things up; a lot of its tips are concerned with how sympathizers with the allied cause can impair enemy material production and morale:

  1. Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
  2. Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.
  3. Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  4. Telephone: At office, hotel and local telephone switchboards, delay putting calls through, give out wrong numbers, cut people off "accidentally," or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again.
  5. Transportation: Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an "interesting" argument.

Some of these sabotage methods are commonplace tactics deployed in everyday workplace feuds. It's often hard to know where incompetence ends and malice begins: the beauty of organizations is that most of them have no effective immune systems against such deliberate excesses of incompetence.

So it occured to me a week or two ago to ask (on twitter) the question, "what would a modern-day version of this manual look like if it was intended to sabotage a rival dot-com or high tech startup company"? And the obvious answer is "send your best bad managers over to join in admin roles and run their hapless enemy into the ground". But what actual policies should they impose for best effect?

  1. Obviously, engineers and software developers (who require deep focus time) need to be kept in touch with the beating heart of the enterprise. So open-plan offices are mandatory for all.

  2. Teams are better than individuals and everyone has to be aware of the valuable contributions of employees in other roles. So let's team every programmer with a sales person—preferably working the phones at the same desk—and stack-rank them on the basis of each pair's combined quarterly contribution to the corporate bottom line.

  3. It is the job of Human Resources to ensure that nobody rocks the boat. Anyone attempting to blow whistles or complain of harrassment is a boat-rocker. You know what needs to be done.

  4. Senior managers should all be "A" Players (per Jack Welch's vitality model—see "stack ranking" above) so we should promote managers who are energetic, inspirational, and charismatic risk-takers.

  5. The company must have a strong sense of intense focus. So we must have a clean desk policy—any personal possessions left on the desk or cubicle walls at the end of the day go in the trash. In fact, we can go a step further and institute hot desking—we will establish an average developer's workstation requirements and provide it for everyone at every desk.

  6. All work environments must be virtualized and stashed on the corporate file servers for safe-keeping. Once we've worked out how many VMs we need to run, we can get rid of the surplus hardware—redundancy is wasteful.

  7. Programmers don't need root/admin access to their development environments. Marketing, however, need to be able to manage the CRM and should have global admin permissions across the network.

  8. All communications within the company will be conducted using the corporation's own home-rolled secure instant messaging/email system. IT Services are hard at work porting the PocketPC 2006 Second Edition client to Android 2.2 and Windows Vista; it should be available any day now, at which point the iPaqs and XP boxes will be sunsetted. (This has the added benefit of preventing the developers from sneaking Macs or Linux systems into the office.)

  9. Stand-up meetings will be scheduled every morning, to allow the development team to share insights and situational awareness. To ensure that everybody has their say everybody will be allocated exactly the same amount of time to speak. If they don't have anything to fill the silence with, we will wait it out, to encourage slow thinkers to keep up.

  10. If a project is running late, then everybody in the department will move to a death-march overtime tempo and pitch in until it's done, shelving their own jobs and switching tasks if necessary. If a death march is established and still fails to produce deliverables on time, then as punishment the coffee in the departmental cafetiere will be switched to decaff.



Okay. What can you add to this dot-com sabotage manual? (No more than bullet point per comment, no more than three comments per day—so there's room for everyone! Alan, this is your cue for variations on full-stack Javascript plus NoSQL ...)

243 Comments

1:

That is a depressingly-accurate description of several companies with which I am personally familiar. (Some startups, two ... not.)

I'm going to say (3) is inverted, however: the current job of HR is to both manage staffing and payroll, but also to ensure nobody screws up and costs the company a lot of money. Therefore, any complaints about harassment need to be immediately and strongly investigated, and the safest way to do that is to put the senior-most person in the alleged incident on disability leave for the duration of the investigation.

2:

This may be sexist badmouthing, but I've heard tech people say that the current Yahoo management falls under Google sending Yahoo "best bad managers over to join in admin roles and run their hapless enemy into the ground"

3:

National Archives have a great version of 5/6 - your desktop PC is wiped clean when you log off - there is a document management system to keep your work in!. (while working there I also overheard a, entirely serious, discussion if employees really needed internet access and what would happen if it were removed.

I think a key policy in this vein would be to encourage the building of expertise in less able employees, and encouraging empire building - in this way you will get silos of knowledge, people who in protecting their jobs become blockers to progress. Documentation should, of course, at all times be discouraged.

4:

I'm going to say (3) is inverted, however: the current job of HR is to both manage staffing and payroll, but also to ensure nobody screws up and costs the company a lot of money.

Yes, but only in a well-run company. "Shoot the messenger" is a time-honoured management practice, after all, and HR answers to senior management, and if they get word of something Bad going on, someone's going to have to tell the boss, and if the boss let's it be known that they don't want to hear ...

5:

your desktop PC is wiped clean when you log off - there is a document management system to keep your work in!

I heard a variation on this last week that would make your hair turn grey (if it isn't already). Alas, my lips are sealed ... let's just say [redacted for identifiable ultra-special-sauce details], $DEVELOPER asked for and got the key to their bootloader, then managed to tweak their box until they bricked it into unbootability (with an encrypted SSD and no recovery keys) after failing to back up their work to the servers for three months.

6:

Mandatory training weekends somewhere in the middle of nowhere with themes like "receptiveness", with lots of office related role playing and powerpoint presentations. And the more managers the better.

7:

Weekly drug testing involving urine and blood samples.

Entry and exit security pat-downs, plus random ones during the day, preferably involving dogs.

Can't ever be too careful about drugs and terrorists and spies.

8:

In what way is this not already-established orkplace policy going back decades?

9:

* Security is paramount. All employees must choose passwords consisting of 16 or more characters containing uppercase, lowercase, digits, and punctuation. These passwords must be changed once a week. Three invalid login attempts will result in an account lockout. To unlock your account, send the IT security team an email from your company address, wait for a call, and confirm your identity by voice using the questions specified during your initial onboarding process. Company security depends on your compliance with these rules.

10:

"You should have been svn your work. You're fired. Git out!" (With the "i" in Git carefully pronounced.)

11:

I was kind of hoping for something that doesn't already happen routinely in many corporations ...

12:

I work in the field and send lots of stuff to HQ via UPS, DHL, post, etc. At one point HQ changed the account number for one of our shipping services and didn't tell the field staff. I've been trying to turn that into a pithy and destructive principle, but so far have failed.

13:

It is sexist badmouthing, and demonstrably false in multiple ways. (Mayer was not a bad executive, and Google -- like everyone else -- hasn't care about Yahoo in many years.)

14:

If you are genuinely trying to disrupt from within then spreading the idea (and encouraging participation) that the "management" look favourably on skunkworks projects to disrupt the business. Talk about the google 80/20 thing to give the idea legitimacy, encourage the idea that it must be kept secret ("you don't want any one else getting credit for your ideas do you") and spread the idea amongst the less able but more enthusiastic members of the company - with a bit of effort and diligence you could easily have large parts of workforces spending at least one day a week doing completely pointless work......

15:

We strive to maintain a drug-free workplace, so buried deep within the fine print of your employment contract is consent to random drug screenings. These will be unannounced and "randomly" conducted against key personnel during the most critical phases of the development cycle.

16:

last comment for today (unless I can't count)

I worked for someone who turned out to be useless and a total arse - he had a couple of tactics that were very effective for what you want (he seemingly thought that these were an effective way to do business) - first off discourage your staff from talking to each other by telling them that other staff members have issues with them/are so pissed off they are thinking of leaving because of your work etc. (as a general principle this will reduce productivity all by itself) and then issue the same piece of work to different people at the same time to see if you get the same results

this same person - when I was in the middle of a massive fight with him (as you do) - brought up his linkedin endorsements as proof he was great. Never bring your linkedin endorsements to a fight!

17:

Teamwork is impeded by each person having their own workspace. This can be solved by putting two developers at each desk, working on one computer. They trade seats every 30 minutes (set a clock timer).

Using a keyboard impedes thinking, so the one who types should enter a state of pure receptiveness, providing no thoughts or insight, while the other one dictates code to them verbally.

Wait... Charlie, you want this to be a practice that isn't used routinely at many companies? Scratch the above, never mind.

18:

Also, having a single person or group work on one thing for too long leads to information that is siloed and narrowly defined.

To ensure global understanding and the best possible solutions, rotate projects randomly between each computer (with attached person / pair) every 4 hours. They get an unfinished heap of code and a ten word description of what it's supposed to do. Again, clock timer.

Oops... Another one of those existing practices. Sorry.

19:

Use the current panic over political correctness and minority quotas to hire incompetent people. This fucks both the company and the social policy of the government.

20:

Performance related pay in all areas below senior management. Ideally tied to frequent testing and reviews of personnel and their work. Failure to make the grade leads to loss of work/ lack of pay/ sacking/ pillorying.

For the results, see current english education system...
Or indeed the NHS and police.


(Note- that is not to say that performance related pay is totally useless in every circumstance, but it is clear that it is inapplicable to many areas that it is being applied in the workplace)

21:

Employ people who get on well with those already in the job.
Which, assuming you've started already on your nefarious plans, means that friends and relatives and people with the right background but no capability will get employed to do the job, instead of someone who might know what they are doing.

22:

1: Management Consultants.
2: Contract staff in key roles.

Point 2 is interesting in companies who fail to recruit permanent staff for 'core' jobs - there are no good reasons for it and the most common bad one is that a hierarchical pay structure prevents them paying anyone more than their manager...

Which leads us into point 3:

3: Mandatory 10% reduction in all contract rates (or 10% layoff of contract staff, who are by definition non-core, even if their skills are critical) as the first response to any cashflow shortfall.

23:

There are entire governments that work like that.

24:

In addition to 1. and 5.: Provide guided tours to show all your business partners your cool new workplace concept (aka zoo).

25:

Oh good grief, your point 3 resembles a mutual friend/acquaintance's situation right now ...

26:

We're a company with customers around the world. Works doesn't stop, it's always daytime somewhere therefore you will be required to work in random shifts between day, evening and night shifts to stay in touch with the needs of our valued customers.

27:

And companies, it's amazing how many people obsess about governments and forget the companies. ONe I worked at was partly like that, and oddly enough it took an infusion of new people before it really got better.

28:
Security is paramount. All employees must choose passwords consisting of 16 or more characters containing uppercase, lowercase, digits, and punctuation. These passwords must be changed once a week.
A friend of mine got that kind of policy (with only the monthly mandatory), and, of course, any previous password was not allowed again.

His solution was "01-March-2015", followed by "01-April-2015", and so on. If they ever implemented dictionary checks, he would have simply reversed the month.

29:

Fund every department based on how much they spent the previous fiscal year.

30:

Unless it is a (part of a) documented process, employees are not allowed to do it. In those documentations there are detailed instructions for every step of the process and strict compliance is enforced.

Oh, and the processes must only be written either by consultants or the processes-department.

31:

1) mandatory all-night hackathons for developers

2) weekly "brown bag" lunch sessions featuring inspirational talks by management. Attendance mandatory. Miss one or be seen not paying rapt attention and face consequences

3) make sure people know there's no career advancement without drinking with the bosses. When your employees are inebriated, push them to tell you how they "really feel" about their peers


32:

And a corollary to 4: Don't listen when your specialists say something is not possible. If they truly are specialists, they should be able to find a solution.

33:

Related: Demand technical solutions that are not possible, then hire "consultants" when your regular employees fail. Set more realistic demands for the consultants.

34:

After thirty years of working ( and the anecdotal evidence of so many others, including Charlie) I still have a persistent bias to thinking people in positions of power know what they are doing, I must have been hacked by a meme or something

35:

As a variation to a comment I heard from Bill Gates on Desert Island Disks, implement a policy that anyone arriving after the CEO or leaving before him on one day per month will be fired (even if they are on holiday, have to go to the hospital or similar). The date will be randomly determined.

For added nastiness, simply circulate this as a rumour rather than a reality.

36:

Maximize internet access, allow social media at work, make it as easy as possible to communicate with friends, coworkers, write complaints on online boards, take personal calls, and so on. Work hard to make the workplace as "chatty" as possible (note that grumbles about this culture come from a certain hospital, so if you're wondering why your meds got screwed up yet again...)

Also, encourage a subversive attitude at work, hide caches of XKCD and Dilbert (for the old contractors) where bored people can find them.

37:

Developers are required to give sole work priority to whatever they were most recently asked to do.

You have to use a different version control system than every other department in the company. A single version control system involves too much risk of technical failure.

Machine checking of references is oppressive, and leads valued workers to question their competence. This practice is destructive to morale and absolutely forbidden.

38:

Go long on enterprise software. Be careful, it's not enterprise if:

  • it costs under a grand a seat or
  • it isn't java-based or
  • it's under 5GB per install or
  • it's possible to achieve anything through using it.

It's a mistake to have a single intranet. Make each facility accessible through a different domain with different credentials. People will inevitably cry "single sign-on". Burn them. They are witches.

39:

You realize your criteria for enterprise software exclude Microsoft Office (too cheap, not Java based)?

40:

I have my three all typed up and ready to go, but it struck me that posting a manual of corporate sabotage may have bad consequences. I'm focusing purely here on the ones along the lines of "beloved supplier is forced to implement defence measures reducing their service level and/or pushing up their costs because the scummy competitors are finding these easy ideas on a web site rather than competing fairly", leading to becoming unbeloved and/or going out of business.

Charlie, why do you want to compile a psychopath guidebook?

41:

Heh aye and I have, in the past, Got Stuff Done with Office. Luckily though Microsoft has chronic UX churn, so each major version uptick of any of their software puts the leg into your productivity while you struggle to find how to do stuff again. Another valuable way to knacker productivity.

42:

And on a side note, the OSS was an amazing organization, even serious histories were funny, and there were some funny ones too, "you're stepping on my cloak and dagger" (parachuted into occupied france, allied occupied, took the surrender of the germans in hel) and "two eggs on my plate" are both good. "of spies and stratagems" was by their chief science/r&d guy.

43:

Do not pay suppliers until they threaten legal action should be standard company policy.

44:

Something I thought would have been mentioned by now - the "strategic" management structure reorganization. Choose the most critical time, and shuffle the management deck chairs. Choose a structure that is "different" to current and re-organise the structure to match. Particularly effective if everyone then has to apply to for their (new)? job roles/positions within that new structure.

For added flavor, choose completely meaningless department titles (best I have come across is department of "Proactive Business Enablers" - known as PROBE. Headed up by the PROBE Manager.

For added confusion, then follow up with performance appraisals/reviews with the new manager about a month following the re-organization.

45:

Make your developers use bleeding edge frameworks for their backend and frontend services. Then use beta quality SaaS offerings because they have the words IoT, Big Data, and Cloud in them. Add a mixture of SQL databases with no constraints (because it is just like NoSQL right?) and 10 different NoSQL offerings all with different reliability and performance characteristics. Stir in a bit of vendor lock in, uptime agreements which are equal to the underlying service provider's uptime, and a faintly ridiculous hiring ramp.

Sure fire way to have any competent dev constantly on the edge of nervous breakdown while incidentally allowing the less competent devs to have fun creating unmaintainable, constantly breaking software.

46:

Decently creative corporate psychopaths don't need one. Which is why HR need to use personality tests to get as many as possible into middle management roles.

47:

Repeatedly address the lack of diversity in the company, regardless of applicant/industry/regional demographics. This is an effective means of inflicting guilt on enemy personnel about the mere fact of their continued existence depriving some poor member of an oppressed group somewhere of a livelihood. Be sure that employees understand that this is specifically the fault of their toxic male/white/heteronormative/cisgender/able-body privilege, and not a failure at a management or hiring level.

48:

Or; cut right back on training. Assume that people who have been around for a while "know what they're doing". Call it "individual responsibility for skills" or somesuch.

Respond to calls for training, with a claim that "we'll allow you to buy some books on the subject" - because handing out a $100 budget per person per year on textbooks is a shedload cheaper than $500 per person per day on a training course, regardless that it's five times less effective...

49:

We strive to create teamwork and harmonious interactions between departments, which is why all the managers are seated together at the far end of the open plan floor. All employees are mixed together with the aim of not allowing anyone to sit next to a coworker from the same department.

Furthermore, secrecy (read: privacy) has no place in our company. That's why there's no private place to speak to your manager. If you want to talk to your boss you've got to walk across the entire open plan floor and speak to him or her in public.

For the same reason, the use of IM software is banned. You will say it in email--every one of which gets copied to a central list for your boss to read--or in person.

Remember: we're here to work together.

50:

Next; bug-hunting. Insist that bugs are dealt with "as efficiently as possible", and offer strong incentives to fix only as much as is necessary. Soon, there will be lots of small bug reports, and no-one will ever try to solve the root causes.

Now, have a stove-piped organisation, where managers at least three levels above the codeface are held individually accountable for whatever bug is at the top of the pile. Soon, the bulk of effort will be spent on reporting upwards, questioning downwards, rather than fixing stuff.

For bonus points, make sure that the task allocation of bugs to developers is done in such a way that multiple developers will be trying to fix the same root cause with a variety of patch symptom-fixes.

51:

My current employer does not actively discourage mockery of bad practices or ideas for bad practices. That said (using my quota up for the day due to wordiness):
(1) Strive to introduce critical dependencies on ids with automatic password expiration that won't be noticed until too late, so that days are wasted recovering. Also, enable password expiration (and randomly generated passwords) for accounts that are only accessed through ssh keys. (Alas, these are real.)
(2) Strive to change bug tracking and change control systems at least once per year, and preferably more often. Make sure that history from the previous systems isn't fully transferred to the new one. Tool chains in general need to be changed continuously and locations of key resources should also change; treat any achievement of flow state by workers as a management failure.
(3) All workers, especially key productive workers, should be encouraged to be accessible at all times, and means provided to easily contact them and grab their attention, so that their focus time is limited. Refer to Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron for details.

52:

Third and final post for the day: Design and documentation.

Insist that documents are symptomatic of old, inefficient, waterfall development processes - and that the corporation is now "agile" in its development.

Refuse to invest in enterprise-quality requirements capture, or coherent design efforts, and insist that PowerPoint and frequent face-to-face interaction with the "customer" is all that is necessary.

Allied to the refusal to invest in training (see @48), switch to your "agile" methods without actually running any training for the teams involved, or investing in any tool support for said methods.

Watch as two years later, your product is a totally undocumented spaghetti-logic ball of mud, made up of patch fix upon patch fix (see @50). Declare victory at VP level, and the imminent arrival of the "new" product. Allow the more personally-ambitious types and their closest friends to jump ship to the "new" product, and start castigating the people working on the "old" product for its limitations and general bugginess.

You can't tell I've experienced this last post, can you?

53:

Human Resources department is the key. Keep them short of staff and the whole organisation will not be able to recruit enough staff to function efficiently.
Ensure the maximum bureaucratic inefficiency in staff recruiting procedures with any approvals and detailed records of all rejected candidates.
Target departments for maximum delay. The purchasing department can cause chaos by having insufficient staff and many orders for crucial supplies can be delayed.
Keep sending the staff surveys which they must fill in. Ensure there is never any feedback for these. I have to admit this is a real one. I was once handed a form by one of my staff on the subject of staff stress. He had written in the "Main source of stress at work" box. "Filling in unnecessary staff surveys. As his manager I signed it and forwarded it on.

54:

Secure against industrial espionage and leaks! Every department working on $PRODUCT must use different code names for it. Use of the code names or discussion about $PRODUCT must be limited to those on the need-to-know list, where you explicitly know that the other part is cleared for $PRODUCT. Every communication to other departments should go through the $PRODUCT lead.

Use moles to enforce this policy, and encourage informers.

55:

Performance management is vital; performance management meetings are infinitely postpone-able, even if it means that employees can't show they've met their targets in a timely manner. Funding for performance goals (e.g. training) is even more postpone-able.

And the ultimate one: Subcontract everything possible to Capita.

56:

>Use of the code names or discussion about $PRODUCT must be limited to those on the need-to-know list, where you explicitly know that the other part is cleared for $PRODUCT.

Heh. Having worked in such an environment in the US gummint, I will testify that such is a very effective sabotage tactic. ZIRCONIC comes to mind. Not that it was meant as sabotage, but that's the way it worked out.

> Every communication to other departments should go through the $PRODUCT lead.

Even that is usually dangerous, because suggesting the possibility of communication outside the list is often regarded badly by management.

Security/Secrecy practices are often depressingly reminiscent of religion.

57:

Being sick is a disciplinary offence - you're stealing paid time from your employer. Being sick because you're stressed doubly so - your employer has provided well-being information, including the leaflet on the need for you to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and good food. With these tools there is no excuse for getting sick. Please note that taking sick leave in order not to infect your colleagues is explicitly banned.

Yes, one of my colleagues was told that not wishing to give norovirus to everyone else was not a permissible reason to stay at home once she was no longer projectile vomiting every hour on the hour. If she was capable of dragging herself in and working the minimum core hours of flexitime she was required to do so. The only time this policy has been rescinded was during the swine flu scare. If your flu symptoms had been decreed by a doctor to be probably swine flu rather than any other variety of flu, you were to stay at home and not infect people.

58:

In order to maintain our competitive advantage, we must be enthusiastic early adopters of the bleeding edge. This means refactoring all our code base into the latest tech every few months to gain maximum advantage. Any developers unable to demonstrate sufficient competency in the new language are to be sacked immediately. At least a years experience would seem suitable.

59:

I hear from an unreliable source that the across-the-board 10% cut in contract rates is co-ordinated between the big five banks on Canary Wharf, every year they do it, with an understanding between them that they will not hire anyone who turns doen their revised rate from a participating institution.

it's been going on for a while, and companies outside the Wharf,and outside banking, are picking up on the jolly wheeze.

The companies that make it stick are the ones that work hardest to 'commoditise' the contract staff: no specialist knowledge, no contractor to become so identied with system or project that they become irreplaceable, and a strict cutoff at two years' renewal.

The results are predictable: very staid and cookie-cutter work - no originality and no innovation; rates negotiated with two down-ratings built-in to the bid price; and everyone 'knowledge-hoarding';and, in the worst cases, building legally- and technically-fragile systems that require the continuing presence of the author.

The real fun comes with Mandatory Contractor Furlough: instead of down-rating, the contractors are required to reduce their billable days by 10%. Now try getting a tactical fix on a trade floor system on a Friday! Worse, contractors won't take these twenty or so 'furlough days' at even intervals throughout the year - what if their contract isn't renewed mid-year? - They defer taking furlough days until they're forced to take them (and their managers are forced to make them) at year-end, abandoning the projects and the users in November and December.

The CIA didn't think of *that* one - it's pure 'Black Chamber' with a touch of TSA.

60:

Introduce a quarterly bonus structure. Set the targets just enough so no one ever gets it.

Give your employees a wide variety of complex work to do. Some will be regular, some once or twice a year. Then start sub conning the regular work, relaxing the standards required for the contractor. Spend the next few years telling your people they're useless, and they'll sub con everything if they don't accept a new pay deal/shift pattern. For bonus points, get rid of the ability to do the work you've sent out in house. Marvel as at contract renewal, the sub con firm doubles the cost.

Any equipment/programs/tools etc that isn't used for 11 months gets binned. Ensure you have plenty of once a year jobs.

61:

Also, can I suggest some of you need to find a good union? Or at least read up on ACAS? A lot of what is described sounds flat out illegal, at least in the UK.

62:

That's an interesting policy with Norovirus: deeply unpleasant, notoriously transmissible.

Ever heard the distinctive 'Whooping' cough of a pertussis case in the workplace? 'Hundred-day cough', they call it in Hong Kong: three months off work. Or ten days, then termination, at companies who have that kind of policy.

And, of course, dead children, if you take it home or take it any place where infants are too young to have been vaccinated...

Me, I dialled HR, asked them to confirm that they were taping the call, and held up the headset mike so they could hear it; probably got someone fired, definitely saved some people months of illness and their job, maybe saved a life.

Or maybe there's an alternative universe where I was fired for that, or managed out, just before a critical department got decimated by pertussis.

63:

You do know why the regular reorganisations, don't you?

The point is to ensure that there is no traceability in the performance of senior managers. Traceability would make it clear that things are either sliding along, or getting worse. Do put on the reorg boots and kick things around till nobody can tell the manager did nothing positive during their time.

64:

never, NEVER, NEVER delete a single character of code. Defeat bugs as you can, but never delete.
--ml
[true story -- 20 years on the founder couldn't understand why his -- so magnificent -- writing was so slow.]

65:

General behavioural reason behind just about all of the above?

Employees are, should be, must be, replaceable cogs in a machine. Ever since the production line got invented, the move has been towards trying to maximise the level of 'mechanistic' activity - treating people as things. Thus you get:

  • defined processes for everything
  • documentation of everything
  • hot desking and open plan offices
  • gantt chart resource allocation
  • core contractors
  • outsourcing to third world sweat shop
As such it's kind of easy to sabotage things. You either make people MORE like cogs, or, if you are really sneaky, you make people irreplaceable, and make sure they know it.

Say, hard encryption of all key files on the basis of a retina scan of a particular individual...

Of course, the threatened move towards automation of many jobs plays to this exactly. If you have got a system that treats people as things, well you just need to go one step further, and replace them with machines. Of course that has a nasty consequence - the only jobs left are the ones where personal skills and intelligence are required - they are no longer cogs any more, and the HR role (the root of this hell) has to go. Everyone left is a partner in the firm.

66:

I've had fun reading about the OSS too.

It's worth remembering that not everything they did worked, and there's a reason that the director was nicknamed "Wild Bill." Indeed, most of it failed to some degree.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual can be read in this light. It may have been produced as a genuine sabotage manual, but I suspect it was read by officers as much for humor. Remember that the CIA declassified it, and there are some OSS training documents that haven't been declassified (even though comments from modern CIA agents suggest that these still-classified training manuals are used more as "teamwork builders" than for useful training).

It's fun to see stupid business mistakes proposed as sabotage techniques, but I think it's a mistake to read compilations of people's screwups as a "sabotage manual" that is dangerous to national or even company security.

As for the ongoing Yahoo fiasco, I'd wondered at first if Mayer was a stalking horse for Google. After being on the receiving end for a while, my second take is that it's not worth assuming malice for something that can adequately be explained by incompetence.

67:

If you've ever read The Mythical Man-Month, you know that coordination-intensive jobs often get slower when new personnel are added. Getting everybody on the same page takes quadratically-scaling time. So find your most critical project, and add about five times more people than it could possibly use effectively. If a bottleneck starts to develop, give that part of the project even more new hires. If questioned, you have a perfect excuse: the project is critical, so you gave it all the resources you could.

68:

All employees must choose passwords consisting of 16 or more characters containing uppercase, lowercase, digits, and punctuation. These passwords must be changed once a week.

And if the complaints get bad enough, cave in and set every password to "password".

69:

Charity begins at work. For lower level employees, institute optional (but really not) charitable contributions to United Way (or local equivalent) with participation tracked at work group level. For middle-mangement and executive level employees, add optional (but really not) contributions to the company's preferred Political Action Committee.

Be creative with your "diversity" initiatives. Let it be known (but never documented) that East Asian and South Asian employees are to be counted as "white" for purposes of affirmative action. Then import even more of those East Asian and Asian employees on H1-B visas, while laying off a corresponding percentage of your existing white employees. Address all resulting racial resentment by increased diversity training.

Since no one has mentioned it so far, it is probably time for another industry wide Quality push. Because there's nothing wrong with your company's Quality that can't be fixed by documenting how you are currently doing things wrong, and annual inspections to make sure people are doing the wrong thing according to documentation. Bonus: any process improvements must be submitted to the Quality Assurance department before being implemented (where they will quietly die).

If your company's incentive system is designed around rewarding individual performance, stop it! Teams are the way of the future. If your company's systems reward teams, stop it! You are just allowing lazy employees to slack off and get a free ride on the star performers. Repeat as necessary until everyone is fully aware that nothing they do matters at all.

While diversity is important, a cohesive company culture is just as important. Make sure your racially and sexually diverse workforce are all recruited from a small pool of elite colleges and/or companies. Make your you have a workforce that agrees on all the important things and knows what's best for your customers. Then to save on costs, move the entire company to a deep red state.

Create a profit-sharing program. Count dividends paid to stockholders as an expense for purposes of determining profit to be shared with the employees.

70:

Oh, I forgot one:

Allow HR to keep highly confidential employee payroll and identity information on unencrypted laptops. When the entire workforce's identities are inevitably compromised, give everyone a free year of credit monitoring.

71:

Occasionally the company will get operating system updates. You know, the "Do not turn off or unplug your computer" type. That's a good time to trigger the circuit breaker.

72:

No one has called it, so I will: this is obnoxious to the point of bizarre.

The implicit assumption is that if I hire a black manager, then I will be more reluctant to fire them and incur bigger problems if I do than I would if they were white.

And that is simply contrary to the lived reality in any American company. Certainly any small American company. Maybe it's different in Brit ... no, no it's not.

So: a comment that obnoxious to the point of bizarre. And that's without calling attention to either dogwhistle!

73:

Yes, exactly! You are a better man than I am, Guthrie, pulling the corn from the chaff of that comment!

Your suggestion, of course, involves doing exactly the opposite of the initial proposal. At least it would for most current American start-ups, given the sad state of the tech industry.

74:

OGH is tired of mere Hugo and Nebula awards, and has decided to compile a best-selling business manual. After that, he will buy a yacht with hydrofoils and a hairless cat.

75:

...has decided to compile a best-selling business manual.
I'd buy it. Would even evangelize for it a bit.
(Your comment made me LOL, thanks!)

76:

As security is paramount, we're moving to a strict-whitelist Internet model. That is, unless it's been pre-approved, you cannot connect from within the company network. All our major customers and suppliers have been added to the whitelist. This whitelist is to be implemented immidiately.

A committee will be set up shortly to find the best system to add new sites to the whitelist, as employee connectivity requirements may vary over time.

Given this policy, all employees currently working from home or any other location outside the office must report to the office tomorrow morning at 9AM.

As we estimate there will be limited numbers of work-stations available during work hours during this period of transition, we remind you that logging in on time is crucial to maintain your stack ranking.

We suggest leaving home early.

77:

I wasn't entirely joking.

While Charlie is probably looking at organizations with an eye towards a really dysfunctional one in his next fiction outing, the business manual is such an easy side-project that I'd be surprised if he didn't either write it himself or find a collaborator.

Cross this conversation with Skippy's List and the Evil Overlord list and some business press will pick it up.

78:

In the interest of cost savings, and using IT time efficiently, introduce VoIP and remove POTS. Moreover, ensure that staff that do "fundamentally" the same job share telephone numbers (rather than one number per person).
Also, it's cheaper and more call centre like to use headsets (rather than old fashioned phones), so let's use those. Oh, except we won't give them to everyone, so some people will have to use the handset at the end of the row of desks if they want to make or receive calls. But those people aren't important anyway.
Also:
* Don't take complaints seriously.
* Don't upgrade the network (or increase the bandwidth for the Internet connection) before switching.

----

* No food or drink allowed at your desk. (Pick a reason: your computers are valuable (so no spilling stuff on them); we want people not to work through lunch; we want to encourage team interaction by you all meeting at the breakroom for lunch (etc.); etc.)

79:

Your HR department wouldn't hire incompetent developers, would they? Therefor version control and code reviews are not required, everyone is free to deliver to any part of the codebase from their first day on the job as they wish.

80:

And also, don't purchase any kind of battery backup for your VOIP system, and don't do a site survey prior to installing the system. (HINT - that funny purple device in the rack is there for a reason!)

81:

I am truly amazed nobody brought up a version of something which is done now.

Some of our competitors think they are ahead of the game by checking the social media history of their prospective employees. We know better.

* All employees must have all other employees friended, followed, tagged, binged, twittered, and any variation thereof. This includes the corporate accounts.

* Your activity regarding the endorsement of $COMPANY and encouragement of your friends and family to purchase $PRODUCT will be tracked.

* A scoreboard will be set up showing how well everyone is doing! They aren't called bonuses anymore, now they're achievements! #VacationIsAnEasterEggExceptForEaster

82:

This one from a friend who worked at a very large corporation:

As we all know, everyone makes mistakes. As an organization, what's important is how we deal with them. From this point forward, your base pay will stay the same regardless, but your quarterly bonus will be based on how many errors you find and correct in your work.

What? You in the third row, you have a question? You didn't make any mistakes last quarter? ... Next question!

83:

1.) Move your sales team to a new office with no firewall, no Systems Admin, no coordinated security software implementation, use a poorly managed VPN for all VOIP.

2.) Let the employees take company property home with them.

3.) Have more employees in management than any other dept (because you pay everyone "slave wages"). Combine the job functions of a SysAdmin, CS Manager, Office Admin, Hiring Manager, and CS Rep into one $45k/yr position.

4.) Come into the office 5 times out of the year and conduct all other business via email and an incompetent Biz Dev Admin.

5.) Sit back and watch it all burst into flames while demanding explanations from everyone else asking why nothing was done.

84:

All right, in the interests of hairless cat acquisition by OGH:

1. Ask your BigCo/government employee friends to request meetings to scope a large project, when they have zero purchasing authority: in the best case a big chunk of the sales and new business support staff will spend hundreds of hours preparing and customising documents for a "possible tender", and you may also obtain useful intel from these via your friend,
2. post to a new blog a detailed account of supposed working practices, compensation, and perks at their biggest competitor, filled with Reddit/HN/Soylent bait and using Charlie's list as a rough outline, but ensure it is vague about which precise company is being discussed, and then email one of their clueless middle managers asking about the "story": it is likely this person will forward the email and the "story" may even end up trending at one of the octopus sites, and some of the more insidiously awful ideas may even get implemented as "following industry best practices",
3. ask their biggest customers about current problems they are having with delivery of products and services, under the guise of trying to establish whether your own issues with these are common; do the same thing to their biggest creditors, checking whether they are also having trouble getting paid on time: done with a credible sounding affiliation this may well make some of their customers more critical and less tolerant of any missteps, and may even make some creditors jittery enough to insist on guarantees or less favourable repayment terms.

These are for use against small companies, and are especially effective against tech startups. Beware, some of the above may well break local laws or regulations. I certainly hope they do, because then there may be a slim chance that they won't occur without consequences. These are loosely based on being on the receiving end of similar tactics. In case long words are hard for you: don't do these things, they are bad, but I have seen things like this first hand, done to me and mine.

85:

As a non-geek with no experience of working in big organisations, and also as a man with BPH living in a city with no public lavatories, I'm going to be non-technical about this:

– have a office building with no toilets.

I'm sure that the generators of the sort of brain-dead buzzwords we have been shown above, plus (spit) architects, can come up with inspirational justifications.

86:


1) Standardisation ...

"Reinventing the Wheel" and "Duplication of Work" are inefficient, evil and morally wrong.

Therefore "we" need standardisation committees to review and approve all work (and procurements), thus creating a repository of "Standard Components" that everyone can use.

1a)

Keep full pressure on project teams to deliver on time, on cost while the standardisation committees deliberate on how to solve the overlap in their responsibilities and which tools to use for implementing the "Standardisation".

1b)
Oh, and, Don't involve anyone who actually has any clue about Logistics, Contracts, Product Design or Project Management on any of these committees - which sort-of happens on its own: Every project will of course deputize the people that are the least useful for the project ...

1c) Don't specify a defined authority or budget to these groups in writing. Just keep it simple, minimal. Let the idling brains fill the void with Meaning. That way it can be truthfully stated at the inquest that "this effort was just intended as the collection of information" not the full-on review and change to conform with "standards" of every project deliverable subject to "standardisation" that the committees of useless people implemented.

This strategy is effective for a very visible project, which will be delayed and well over budget as are all large projects where the time / schedule are based on political numbers.

After implementation, it is not the Project that was badly planned, the delays and cost overruns were caused by a few misguided, but honest, people in the lower levels of the organisation.

87:

1) Randomly upgrade tools/compiler/library versions. These are of course all 100% backward compatible.

2) Have a coding standard for all variable, function and class names. Then have another one.

3) Strict Agile methods demand that if your current task is not finished and checked in at the end of the day then you must wipe everything and start from scratch tomorrow. Seriously.

88:

All purchases, no matter how trivial, will need the signature of three senior managers. Purchase requests will be processed every Friday.

89:

Also, can I suggest some of you need to find a good union? Or at least read up on ACAS? A lot of what is described sounds flat out illegal, at least in the UK.

Can I remind you that the Conservative government just introduced fees -- payable in advance -- for bringing claims for employment law infractions in front of ACAS? Fairly substantial fees amounting to multiple months' income for a worker on minimum wage. (Resulting in an 85% downturn in claims for sexual harassment, but not because sexual harassment is down 85% ...)

90:

Most of these don't seem that out of place in the modern IT world by my reckoning. I might be more cynical than many people though. Also this reminds me of Dilbert: I haven't found it funny in the last fifteen or so years, because many times it just documents what happens in the companies...

One thing you can do on a high level: prohibit hiring new people, because of cost reasons. However, have some (development?) project which needs more people. Of course the obvious solution is to use contractors, because they don't go into the salary account.

Then the devious thing: to ensure that all contractors are needed and the need is updated often enough, require that all contracts are for only a month. By smartly having middle managers with enough contractors under them, they don't do anything else than deal with the contracts.

91:

First for today: first-line managers are not a job function. Teams need to rotate management roles on a monthly basis, such that every employee gets a chance to experience management first-hand. The monthly manager cannot question or reverse decisions made by previous managers. During performance review (typically 1~3 months of the year) all team-members are considered equally "management". They will all have access to all pertinent information (including past performance review scores, pay and promotion prospects) for all other employees. Each team-member will be randomly assigned a "peer manager" to conduct the performance review. Promotion to the next level of management (where the same kind of rotational job-assignment will be employed) is determined by an employees performance- the least-contributing team-member above the threshold for termination shall be promoted to Group Leader role.

92:

– have a office building with no toilets.

That's actually illegal almost everywhere. Basic workplace health and safety rules apply. There are also often fixed requirements for the number of "male" and "female" toilets per number of employees. There are also requirements for periodic work breaks and lunch breaks.

...

However, some whacky variations are possible. Many call centers allocate workers a fixed really short time for bodily functions per shift. (Three minutes in eight hours, or something, before the employee gets fined an hour's pay.)

And I'm not sure there's a requirement that a "toilet" must be a sit-down-and-flush job, as opposed to a squat-above-a-hole one. If there is, then you could equip all the toilets with fancy Japanese electrically-heated seats with hygienic water jets and hot air driers, in order to replace all that horrible consumable toilet paper. Buy in bulk, from Japan, and don't bother translating the labels on the buttons from Kanji, the regulars will figure it out fast enough (especially the first time a male user hits the female rinse cycle button by mistake and gets a faceful of ... never mind).

93:

@Charlie 92: Niggle, the buttons on advanced Japanese toilets all carry graphics not kanji.

But it IS actually possible for a standing micturator to get hit in the eye by the rinse jet.

It is probable that the page of kanji on the bathroom door is telling you about this awful danger, also disclaiming liability should you dismantle the toilet and grasp the electrical wires. The hotel kettles carry instructions not to pour boiling water over yourself, so why not?

@Mikko 90:

"By smartly having middle managers with enough contractors under them, they don't do anything else than deal with the contracts."

The way we do New Public Management here, replacing straight municipal departments with outsourcing involves, as well as corruption, a vast increase in the numbers of middle managers tasked solely to juggle the neo-feudal contracts structure. But since the country is actually an African oil economy, where the government spends the petro revenues on jobs for supporters, nobody cares that it is vastly less efficient than the previous system of public employees actually doing stuff.

Hey, doesn't this give us the answer to the question in the other thread of what the Galactics meant by "or else"? How to stop the monkeys advancing enough to collapse the false vacuum – hive minds not necessary, just encourage New Public Management for gummint and stack-ranking in the private sector. Maybe they'll be along soon to check whether we've forgotten how to make fire...

94:

In order to meet our span of control targets, junior managers with less than 8 staff are hereby designated 'player-coaches' and the company intranet has been updated to remove all player coaches from the line management hierarchy. 'Player Coaches' should spend no more than 5% of their time on management tasks which should include daily 1:1's, goal setting and development and performance reviews for everyone they 'coach'.

(Actually happened to me - in part)

95:

1) Make employee engagement an equal part of your "Strategy Tripod/Triangle/Flux Capacitor" along with Revenue and Quality, or similar. To reinforce this, engage with a shill employee branding marketer independent employee engagement award scheme.
2) Make engagement in the annual rating questionnaire mandatory by making 100% participation of reports a management performance goal
3) Retransmit random selections from the "many, many" positive comments on internal comms
4) Retransmit random selections of "rare" negative responses with point-by-point refutations using vague straw-man arguments and sufficiently vague numbers in a tone of "burn the witch!" on same internal comms, pour decourager les autres
5) Gamefy the process - "This year we came close, lets see if we can win next year!!!"

96:

Hmm, maybe I should update my CV. Uncharitably, I could argue my current place matches:

1, 3, most of 5, 6, 7, most of 8 and most of 10 :(

People will put up with a lot of workplace misery if you add it slowly.

An additional point I'd add (from personal experience) would be:

Add at least four weeks of paperwork and change meetings before anything goes live.

97:

Another spin on this is having a QA team whose salary is indexed on the number of bugs 'found' and the engineer's on the number bugs 'closed'

This could mean introducing another team tasked with preventing collusion between the first two

98:

1) Give HR (or similar department) free reign to set any company wide policies that don't inconvenience senior management.

2) Strongly hint that their performance reviews depend on number of policies enacted.

3) Leave them alone with no real work to keep them busy.

Job done.

99:

Luckily though Microsoft has chronic UX churn, so each major version uptick of any of their software puts the leg into your productivity while you struggle to find how to do stuff again.

I still hit Cmd-K to delete something a decade or two after it has vanished. :(

For employee only internal web sites, make sure the user interface varies all over the map. Tab key works here, but not there. This site remembers you phone extension, but not this one but it doesn't prompt you when blank, etc... Oh, yeah, design all of these site so they really only work well on 17" or better yet 20" displays. Forget those smaller laptop displays.

100:

Do not pay suppliers until they threaten legal action should be standard company policy.

Get the internal accounting system for a 100 person or so company running well then replace all the people trained in accounting with secretaries. What could go wrong?

Repeat with other internal support groups as needed to achieve a "pulled from the air" metric for efficiency/costs.

101:

All purchases, no matter how trivial, will need the signature of three senior managers

Preferably Jesus, Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa.

102:

"All departments must be profit centres"

103:

1. Implement performance targets for yearly bonuses to motivate employees. Then capriciously apply bonuses without regard to said targets, to keep them guessing.

2. Continually send work off shore to save money. When employees ask if they can work from home, tell them it's too important to have face to face contact with co-workers.

3. Reorganize the office layout to put all the desks closer together. Do this despite the fact that recent offshoring has left an entire floor of your building empty.


104:

Measure productivity as hours of system downtime times hours worked.

A team that institutes good practices, automated monitoring and remediation etc thus has a poor rating - very few hours of downtime, because their system just works. A team that's constantly in your face because their system is down, again, is highly productive on fewer hours.

And justify it as "well, I can see what team B do; they're constantly fixing system B. What do you guys actually do, apart from play on the computer all day?"

105:

A common theme here seems to be that essentially any policy is destructive if implemented rigidly enough. So a meta-policy should be: to ensure fairness, no deviations from the policy manual will be permitted. Start with a big "best practice" manual and make the procedure for making policy changes one of the lovely examples above.

106:

Another one: We need work to be properly reviewed before it is presented to management. All documents presented for review (including any set of slides, document, specification, spreadsheet or piece of code that is shared in a meeting) needs to be reviewed and receive written feedback from all presenter's peers and all relevant stakeholders in other teams before presentation. Any material not reviewed and presented in this manner cannot be deemed final, approved, or acted upon. In order to ensure that meaningful feedback is provided, presenter must share a list of all reviewers he is soliciting feedback from at least one week before the presentation, provide them with the full material he is about to present, and be able to share (upon request from management or during the review meeting) all written communications from each reviewer. Each such communication (in the form of an email or printed document; IM and verbal notes do not apply) must include at least three corrections or points for improvements, and at least three points of support/agreement. Typos and grammatical errors don't count towards these goals.

I believe this kind of policy can ensure nothing ever gets done, as everyone is busy reviewing other people's work all the time, keeping track of feedback notes (and printing those feedback emails), and never being able to schedule a review meeting (which is required in order to formalize any piece of work).
On the other hand, it will at least make sure people actually read the documents they are asked to review...

107:

A buddy of mine has a good one in place where he works. All coders have to take in in turns to do customer support. While doing so, they are strongly encouraged to resolve any problems that customers report themselves.

It's very effective: the programmers stress about the day manning the phones, they stress about trying to debug another programmer's code in response to an irate client's complaint, they stress about their own buggy code causing problems for their colleagues, they stress about being caught out having made dumb coding errors, they stress about mucking up a colleague's code, and they stress about having someone else digging around in their code. Meanwhile they have to take time off their own projects (performance-related pay, natch), they contribute very little to providing good customer service, and customers get a different person to speak to each time they call (and it's usually exactly the wrong person for their problem). Oh, and of course the programmers tend not to be able to resolve the problems themselves anyway, adding to other people's workloads. Genius.

108:

All confidential documents need strict access controls, including an encryption password and two-factor identification to ensure need-to-know. In order to further increase security, the password and second factor (SMS to your phone, fingerprint scan, retina scan, voice imprint, face recognition, choose your vice) will be processed in a single remote server that is heavily protected by Corporate Security, and has a highly monitored incoming and outgoing network connection (read: slow as hell). The number of times each document is accessed (whether it is edited or not) will be monitored and limited, such that after a set limit it will be locked and archived for good, and a new version will need to be created (hopefully you remembered to copy the contents out of it before you reached the limit, right?). I think 100 sounds like a reasonable number for access limits, who needs to read anything more than that?

Oh, and by the way, all internal communications, including email, are considered confidential and protected in the same manner.

109:

Every task to have its own number, hours worked on each task to be recorded on an hour-by-hour basis using an application with one-hour timeslots. Hours per task to be graphed automatically in the HR/Accounting software, thus enabling the costs of each task to be 'accurately' recorded.

Anomalies to be flagged automatically by the software (itself designed for a different industry with different needs) and reviewed by the HR/Accounting bods.

Naturally, this system is integrated with the overall accounting system, meaning that discrepancies will cause a real headache for someone or other... meaning that even the most understanding HR/accounting bods won't be able to ignore them.

110:

> In what way is this not already-established orkplace policy going back decades?

The Orkplace? If someone hasn't done an office satire in a fantasy setting, you need to get on it Charlie.

(Does the Laundry quite count? Does Discworld?)

111:

But surely there need to be people (maybe in HR) who can access and decrypt all files and communications for the purposes of internal review?

112:

All software engineers performance will take into account keyboard metrics, including the number of times the backspace key and delete are used.

114:

The Orkplace?

You spotted bait planted to lure out other past and present denizens of the Scary Devil Monastery.

If you don't know, don't ask.

115:

How many monks are there in here ? (Said as a lurker, not even an acolyte at the SDM)

116:

If the suppliers get creative, this can cost a fortune. A friend of mine once applied for a winding-up order on GEC (the UK one) because their repeated failure to pay "indicated they were trading while insolvent."

117:

My fave story along those lines was of the small business who were owed a few thousand quid by British Airways, circa the early 1990s. When it was good and ripe, they sorted out the appropriate court order and turned up at Heathrow with a bailiff in tow.

The overdue bill got paid really fast when the bailiff got to the door of the shiny new Boeing 747-400 that was about to push back for the first sector of LHR-SYD with 400 passengers on board and threatened to poind and auction it for pennies on the pound ...

118:

There's a really basic principle underlying most of these ideas. Unfettered egos. So you make it semi-explicit that for morale reasons, all management is about making the senior person look good and the underlings bad.

119:

I think I've done my three points at 'Evil'...

Can I try 'Bugf*** Insane'?

Stack Overflow is blocked and all requests require prior oversight by your team leader.

No IT company would ever, ever do that.

120:

Legal should have unrestricted access to all versions of all documents, including detailed, time-stamped logs of all access. After all, when we're sued, we need to be able to have our records in place. But due to cost-cutting the entire Legal department was offshored to a private law firm in Panama. Or China, I can't quite remember...

121:

Two points: one, it's not ACAS, it's employment tribunals; and two, it's worse than you think.

ACAS is an independent arbitration and conciliation service public bodies, companies and trade uniions in situations where negotiations fail to resolve a dispute and the courts are not an appropriate forum.

Employment tribunals are a streamlined alternative to a full court, with near-judicial powers to impose awards 'fines', that allow employees to challenge unfair or improper decisions by employers without resorting to the courts.

And yes, access to tribunals has been made prohibitively expensive.

They are also irrelevant to temporary workers, contractors, and employees with lessthan eighteen months' service.

The bit that's worse than that is the withdrawal of legal aid for employment cases. (Housing, too, but that's another matter). Officially, all of the previous Home Secretary / Justice Minister's policies have been reversed... But that particular reversal is still undergoing consultations and due consideration.

It is, of course, unlawful to withold wages from your employees: but very few lawyers would take that on pro-bono.

And that's the state of the law today.

I leave it to your imagination, all questions as to whether the practice of blacklisting renders both the courts and the tribunal utterly irrelevant.


122:

This reminds me of "The List" from Connie Willis' Bellwether.

Optimize potential.
Facilitate empowerment.
Implement visioning.
Strategize priorities.
Augment core structures.

A marvellous piece of buzzword salad.

123:

I was working at GEC thirty-plus years when a paper supplier issued a winding-up order. If nothing else, it amused the workforce. I have a suspicion that this happened to GEC more than once, as a result of their 'never pay the first invoice' policy.

124:

> – have a office building with no toilets.

>> That's actually illegal almost everywhere. Basic workplace health and safety rules apply.

Disincentives, however, can also be applied:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/05/11/i-had-to-wear-pampers-many-poultry-industry-workers-allegedly-cant-even-take-bathroom-breaks/

"A new report by Oxfam America, an arm of the international anti- poverty and injustice group, alleges that poultry industry workers are "routinely denied breaks to use the bathroom" in order to optimize the speed of production. In some cases, according to the group, the reality is so oppressive that workers "urinate and defecate while standing on the line" and "wear diapers to work." In others, employees say they avoid drinking liquids for long periods and endure considerable pain in order to keep their jobs."

125:

Are you not aware that this is how budget planning works in DOD? Every August/September is "use it or lose it" time before the end of the fiscal year (30 Sep), because if you don't spend your entire budget, you get less next year.

126:

The thing about #1 is that it's basically a psychopath ploy. If you buy into The Gervais Principle (that every workforce can be divided into upper-level psychopaths fighting for higher tickets, low-level labor that doesn't want to play that game but do its work and go home to things non-psychopaths care about, and middle-tier "clueless" management peons who *think* they're playing the game but aren't psychopathic enough to do so or even be aware the psychopaths are in charge), then every workforce is already in the hands of psychopaths.

The mistake András is making is believing psychopaths want to make the workforce more miserable. They don't. The want to make the workforce more effective.

Open bays in software development allow the psychopaths to do that. Not in terms of the developer's happiness, but in terms of retention. An open bay gives management a literal predator's eye view of their prey, allowing them to pick off the weak and promote the strong.

It may not seem that way to you, but then, you're probably not a psychopath. And you're probably thinking in terms of servicing the customer, rather than maximizing your bank account before the whole thing collapses.

127:

Periodic pointless automated, automatically assigned training in aspects of the business and regulatory environment which don't actually affect you, made slow and tedious by animations, unskippable "activities" and with a multiple choice test at the end that sends you back through from the start if you don't get a high score.

128:

There were mentions of unions. Since unions are organizations, these methods can also be used to wreck unions.

Here's one I read about decades ago-- it's very important to keep the workspace looking good-- so not just a clean desk policy, but no one can move anything. No, not even to reduce screen glare.

Senior management are involved in MLMs, so employees have to buy in.

Looking for a job somewhere else is grounds for getting fired.

129:

Goes well beyond DOD. I work (sometimes, when wearing one hat) for a market research agency. At the end of every year there's a sudden wave of work as departments plough their surplus budgets into research.

130:

Thanks Dave, I'll have to check it out.

Now back to the Wild Bill's Psychopath Factory v 3.0.

131:

Here's one that is thankfully pretty rare in its extreme form but that I am woefully familiar with:

* Choose top management based on self-confidence and ability to make vague references to whatever is currently being hyped in Silicon Valley, then give them 100% control over huge swaths of the business. Fire them after a month if the company hasn't made money off their schemes during that time, and immediately cancel any projects they supported, whether or not those projects made money.

132:

Best one I can think of is that whoever finds a problem is, by default, responsible for fixing it.

For crappy managers it looks fantastic. Suddenly all the to-do lists are getting sorted out really fast, backlogs of problems to fix are down. Obviously the people finding the problems must be in the best position to understand/fix them. Of course in reality people shut up about things that are broken and everything gradually rots. I remember as an intern(ish) finding security holes that you drive a truck through and being quietly told by a coworker that I really really don't want to point them out because the remainder of my time there would be spent hopelessly trying do the paperwork to fix them.

Next on the list is to have lots of documentation, documentation out the wing wang, so much documentation that you should have documentation about the documentation (but don't) and official policies that of course all new hires must read all policy documentation. Make sure to have contradictory rules with no clear order of precedence. Make sure that a huge fraction of most employees time is spent creating more documentation. Do not organise the documentation in any searchable way. Spread it over 20 systems in a dozen formats, mostly behind password prompts and use as many different words for the same thing as possible.

133:

Not based on actual practise AFAIK, but a comment from a well known 1% from his startup days.

On a random day per month, any one not in before the boss or leaving before the boss will have their employment terminated for "insufficient company spirit."

134:

Step 1.

Policy states: All employees are required to sign up to KPI's that are confidential and sharing them is a sackable offence. Ensure that all major divisions have KPI's that cannot be met if other divisions meet theirs. (Sit back and watch the wars)

Step 2.

All projects are henceforth confidential and no information is to be shared. Make this an essential KPI that employees are required to sign up to.

Step 3.

Bring in consultants 2 weeks after last performance KPI agreement is signed who restructure and declare silo driven organisation is no longer viable and all information is to be shared in the cloud on nominated platform within 7 business days or termination proceedings may commence. Ensure new policy is drafted & distributed saying same. (Cloud based distributor and platform changes every three weeks)

Step 4

2 months later send written warnings to anyone who shared information attaching a copy of performance agreement initially signed up to. When employees protest, point out the new policy was in draft form only and has not been ratified by the board. Point to an obscure policy no one has ever seen saying it's a sackable offence to act on draft policies.

Step 5

After employees delete all the shared info, point to an obscure part of employee intranet which shows the policy was ratified by the board the day after the written warnings went out. by this time, company will have saved themselves about 60% of potential redundancies they would have had to pay out had they announced job cuts in the first place due to people resigning in disgust.

Step 6

As a 'new' innovation, company is reverting to Lotusnotes. All privacy settings are disabled. Any employee can read another employee's email (including HR), calendar, uploads etc. Company grinds to halt as everyone is too busy trying to find out what's coming next.

135:

Hello, fellow (ex-?) denizen of the supplier of Business Machines!

136:

Try randomly blocking GitHub without warning for long periods of time in order to close the risk of data leakage.

137:

Performance reviews:

A. Performance tied to pay … only staff whose projects launched and successfully completed within the reporting (past) Quarter will be evaluated for merit pay increases ignoring the fact that most of the company works on multi-year on-going (2, 3 or 5 year term) projects.

B. Below annualized per-quarter average sales performance will be penalized even though over 80% of projects are multi-year and all are also renewable/ed in the same quarter, i.e., client’s fiscal 4th Qtr. (For 5 years: sales award one Qtr, ‘try harder’ notes three Qtrs each year ... all sent out by the same dept/people.)


Client relationship management:
1. Cut costs and improve customer satisfaction while introducing a 360-customer-satisfaction reporting system that requires staff evaluations from every client every Quarter. If your client does not provide an assessment, something bad must be going on and we will investigate.

2. Keep your clients informed of every tech breakthrough and new product. Each of your clients must be informed within 48 hours of the official corporate announcement even if said products have absolutely no relevance to that client.

3. At the same time, directive to ‘respect your client’s time … 'Time is precious … do not disturb unless you have something relevant to communicate’.

Human Capital Best-Practices: (HR is so last century … )

a. Lunch & Learns scheduled for the same day as monthly deliverables reports that are due to Head Office. Pizza, soft drinks and cookies served. Combine high-carbs with increased carbon dioxide in a closed, poorly ventilated, over-lit and overheating conference room plus monotone delivery of the lecturer/webcaster, and you get everyone over 40 yrs of age nodding off and snoring within 20 minutes. Follow up with mandatory online review and test due that same day. (Company-wide with several divisions/countries joining in on video so no safe way out of this.)

b. Corporate culture policies aka ‘PCing your foreign subs’ … North American prime office hours (9:5) is late night in Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. but we need to show that all of our offices are gender balanced during our core hours (NA 9-to-5). (Sorry folks, but some parts of the world are still not safe for females under 40 to commute unaccompanied. One bad experience to a staffer you know/have worked with and ‘stay safe’ quickly replaces best-Western-World-PC office practice.)

138:

Compulsory off-site team building exercises near deadlines. This one requires you to have deadlines that are almost feasible, if you work flat-out up to the deadline.

You use this to establish a catch-22; anyone who fails to meet deadlines gets a poor performance review; if necessary, cite their attendance at a "jolly" as signs of poor decision making skills. If, however, you don't attend the off-site event, then you face disciplinary action for not turning up at a compulsory company event.

Related trick - have someone in management who can code. They only get involved if you miss your deadline (see previous trick of almost feasible deadlines); in the event that they successfully fix anything, they get full credit for that feature, and you get asked why you spent so long on it, when $manager could do it in under a day.

139:

Names are very important. Project, product, and organizational names should be up-to-the-minute relevant, inspiring and engaging. Setting these names is a major responsibility of the marketing department, and a good name should get the marketeers a bonus - once implemented. A common theme should often be used, so that every name recalls current company branding. A conglomerate of random products should use similar names for all, to assure customers that it's one company, with their success as its primary goal. Resemblance to the product (or department's) actual function is far less important.

Naturally, as business conditions change, so should the names... at least every two years, but more is better. And every major project should (at a minimum) have both an internal and an external facing name, with longer running projects having multiple internal names.

I'm not naming the (large, American) company where I work so as not to violate policy on libel, but they are past masters of this. Any documentation we may have is sure to use no longer current names, recognized only by a few old timers - and multiple generations of such names at that. And I've no idea how customers keep our product names straight; I can't remember anything but the current (and historical) names of the specific product I work on.

140:

I think the update misses the mark a bit. The original is all about how every individual can subtly sabotage, the update seems to assume you are running the place.

So:

Nurture Defects:

*Apply the fact that defects are more expensive to fix the later they are found.

*If you have an opportunity to insert a bug make it subtle and hard to reproduce. Small memory overwrites. Race conditions. These can tie up a top engineer for days. Be careful about doing this too often, however.

*Do not spot subtle errors in code reviews, but go ahead and call out errors that will be quickly found and fixed.

*When other team members are getting close to fixing an issue known to you fix it yourself, or provide insight to have it fixed to secure your position and demotivate others.

*Delay reporting subtle bugs you think may be linked to deep seated issues.

*Include long and tedious unnecessary reproduction steps in bug reports.


Disrupt process.

*Break the build.

*Increase iteration time.

*Participate in process improvement to tip the balance toward more time consuming, less effective measures. Introduce bottlenecks.


Disrupt the team.

*Attempt to reject or drive away good candidates for jobs. Give your feedback first to set the tone. Others will find it hard to give positive evaluations after a negative one.

*Do not work to hire obviously poor candidates, this is more likely to have you removed from the hiring process and continued hiring activity and unfilled positions are already a disruption.

141:

NB: This post is doing the rounds, and I feel the need to copy a comment from the MetaFilter thread posted by one Damienmce:

Why doesn't it have "install a mvk switch under your desk and bring in a mini-PC, which you have loaded with your own software but with same corporate desktop background, tethered to your phone and work for an entirely different company"

142:

Names ...

Legal must sign off that a name can be used before it's market tested.

Ad agencies come up with names, but ad agencies don't do copyright name searches. Very expensive and potentially even more embarrassing when this is not done in the correct order.

143:

Some from a previous bad experience:

1. Fix your immediate problem, and damn the fallout for other developers. If challenged on this, you're making progress, and the rest of us need to keep up.

2. Threaten co-workers who try and expose your acts in #1; make sure that you're not seen threatening people.

3. Anyone who's slower than you is incompetent; anyone who's faster than you is cutting corners. Make sure to keep telling management this.

4. If anyone looks likely to put you in a bad place, strike first - complain about bullying by the employee who's likely to show you up (bonus points if you can reference unlawful discrimination in the process).

5. Promise everything verbally; put the bare minimum in writing. If challenged verbally, point to what you've done so far, and promise that you're nearly there; if challenged in writing, point to what you promised.

6. Document process, but get it subtly wrong. Follow the correct process, not the documented one; if anyone fails to succeed at the process, complain loudly that they're slow, and you can do it in half the time (by not following the documented process). If someone does succeed, complain loudly that they're not following the documented process, and the world sucks if people don't update documentation; block documentation updates with a blizzard of trivial fix ups that "have" to be accepted before the meat of the problem can be tackled.

144:

Third & final post for today ...

Is this related to the story of a US DEV who outsourced his job?


http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/17/sacked-model-modern-employee-outsourcing

145:

Routinely block access to all generic online help sources with the company's firewall. Stack Overflow, php.net (or equivalent) for your tools. Disable all search engines. Implement, grudgingly, partial mirrors of certain resources - make sure they're not for the currently installed version of the items used by your dev team.

146:

@Michael Rosefield at 110:

"The Orkplace? If someone hasn't done an office satire in a fantasy setting, you need to get on it Charlie."

If Charlie doesn't have the time, may I nominate Mary Gentle?


@Peteratjet at 123:

"I have a suspicion that this happened to GEC more than once, as a result of their 'never pay the first invoice' policy."

The master of that round here is Statoil. Word has it that they want the unpaid supplier to go bankrupt so they can buy it cheap, or at least its inventory.


@Elf Sternberg, 126:

"The mistake András is making is believing psychopaths want to make the workforce more miserable. They don't. The want to make the workforce more effective."

I dunno. An economist I used to know claimed that the Bengali rag trade could be made safe, pay good wages, move up-value-chain to smart fabrics and still make a profit. Reason it doesn't happen is that the owners are villagers who don't want to let their former co-villagers out of the gutter. What Stalin would have called kulaks.

There is a Norwegian proverb, "One's own happiness is best, but the misery of others is a good second-best". I maintain, Elf, that this is more true of our species than your take.

If you think zero-sum, as all psychopaths naturally do, then of course making the workforce miserable DOES make you happy. In fact, you're ready to take a hit to profits for the satisfaction. Upside-down Maslow.


147:

The original is all about how every individual can subtly sabotage, the update seems to assume you are running the place.

Oh, that's easy.

Suppose you are $STARTUP_1, trying to sabotage $STARTUP_2 in your field. You have first-mover advantage.

So you give your most talented corporate psychopaths stock options that will vest if they are employed by you in five years time. Note that there is no requirement for this to be continuous employment.

Now you encourage them to apply for jobs with $STARTUP_2 in their equivalent role. You give them sterling references and they are of course highly qualified for the jobs because they have the experience of working for $STARTUP_2's biggest rival. (See also Yahoo! hiring Google managers, etc.)

Your psychopaths have been briefed to go in and stir shit, ideally by fucking things up from the middle-management tier down. When things are sufficiently fucked-up, you will then throw them a lifevest in the shape of their old job on old T&C's or current pay, whichever is higher. They transfer back to $STARTUP_1, their options vest, they're happy. Meanwhile $STARTUP_2 is thoroughly fucked.

Note that I'm not making this up; I've seen it happen.

See for example Nokia under Stephen Elop. Or the IT department of a certain dot-com I worked for that had just gone public under the mismanagement of a CTO whose name I have totally forgotten. (Who I am told allegedly kept a stake in his previous company when he arrived: and it was to his previous company that he generously outsourced a huge chunk of ongoing development work. This resulted in zero lines of runnable code, a bill in seven digits ... and then he resigned and popped back up at his original employer).

148:

1. Legal is under HR, thus all decisions about regulations, policy, negotiations, etc. have the full control of HR guiding it. (Meaning HR's don't rock the boat attitude will hide all problems until its too late. Minor policy changes in the employee manual designed by legal will be delayed. Necessary changes to development due to regulatory issues will be ignored).

2. Legal and IT are considered cost centers. Most commenters will realize the pain of IT being considered a cost center. Legal is less obvious, but it's the same principle, getting cheap on the front end means much more expensive back end issues. And it means crisis after crisis.

3. IP is budgeted under legal, not R&D, so is a cost rather than an asset. (Hidden sleeper that can ruin a IP heavy start up, since it means its pulling teeth to get any patenting going. Those patent applications can mean life or death for the company later on since they can be counted as assets to investors and acquirers).

4. Legal is kept in a box and not allowed to mingle with other employees except HR handlers. Marketing is kept out of the legal box and allowed to mingle with everyone BUT legal. (experience with an open floor plan shows being able to over hear marketing is very important) I've heard horror stories from one rather large and famously mismanaged dot.com where marketing usually sent their completed plans out at 4:55 pm Fridays, with a multi million campaign to start Monday.

5. Marketing's promises internally are considered nonbinding. Marketing's promises externally are considered the rock the company is founded on.

149:

The Orkplace is where you and your cow orkers ork cows.

150:

Don't roll out new versions of important software on a limited basis. All new versions should be implemented organization-wide on the same day, (preferably at the same minute.) It may take some time for this form of sabotage to pay off, but believe me, it will. I once spent six months cleaning up after such a problem, with the the ultimate payoff being that the company I worked for was sacked and the vendor which had caused the problem was kept on. Lots of OT, however, so it wasn't a total loss.

Make up your own forms of measurement and insist that everyone involved in a particular project use those forms of measurement, or insist on a form of measurement which does not apply to the problem. For example, insist that available rack space be counted in square inches rather than rack-units. Or insist that the person performing a site-survey divide the number of ceiling tiles in the MDF by 16, and designate this a "standard MDF unit." If the MDF doesn't have ceiling tiles, make the vendor guess. (Sadly, I'm not making this one up, though I changed it a little so XXXX-Company doesn't recognize themselves.)

151:

Or you could just have one team use the metric system, while the other team uses the english system, like with the Mars Climate Orbiter.

(I wanted to note this before someone else did!)

152:

True story.

At my first software development gig after leaving uni the management wanted to appear high tech, so it was decided that we would always use the latest version of things like compilers.

Somehow they got hold of a pre release version of REDACTED 5, and it was decided that we would ditch REDACTED 4 to start using it immediately.

The pre release compiler in question had issues. One of them was a miscalculation of the jump at the end of for() and while() loops, so that top tested loops jumped to the point just after the test and they would never terminate.

Development pointed out that this tool was unfit for purpose and that we should wait until there was a version that actually worked before changing.

Reply was along the lines of "No. That wouldn't be using the latest tools. We need to be using the latest tools to be high tech. Rewrite all loops so they have explicit breaks or are bottom tested."

The positive part of the experience is that I learned an awful lot about what not to do and how to run a company into the ground.

153:

Wreck unions? Whatever for. A clever psychopathic manager can have all sorts of fun with unions. To wit: any large company's workforce will be composed of a mixture of union and non-union employees. In most cases, the non-union employees will include all engineering and technical staff.

Simply make sure that production is co-located with engineering. Then provoke a strike. Cancel all vacations for non-union employees. Have them re-tasked to "keep the production lines going". Results? Manufacturing defects shoot up, vital engineering work falls way behind schedule, and non-union employees are forced to walk past picket lines every day full of angry union employees calling them "scabs" (and worse).

Three weeks after the strike is over, have HR schedule mandatory company-wide team building exercises.

Sure it can be expensive to not outsource those union jobs to China, but you can't put a price on the sheer psychopathic joy of having your non-union and union employees hating each other's guts—and not yours.

154:

The canonical US example of that sort of things is the story of Warren and Maureen Nyerges who managed to foreclose on a Bank of America building for unpaid debts, with sheriff and lawyers in tow:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/06/06/137002727/sweet-justice-a-florida-couple-forecloses-on-bank-of-america

155:

That's called ISO9000.

156:

Google's research indicates that, in knowledge work, psychological saftey is the most important predictor of good preformance; therefore, it is your job to destroy this. Ferment fear everywhere you go. When mistakes are made, insist that the witch be identified and burned. Implement cultural protection and policy compliance committees with the authority to (seceretly) investigate and fire any breaches or bad cultural fits. Such investigations should be noticable, and prolonged, this encourages compliance. Ensure that preformance reviews are anual, include arbritrary metrics, and are stack ranked. The bottom ten percent preformers will be fired. Implement peer review, with a focus on "areas of improvement." If someone refuses to provide areas of improvement for coworkers, refer them to the cultural committee. Be inventive, there are all sorts of other good ideas. With luck, everyone should be continually looking over their shulders.

Treat everything as a cost center, and focus on lowering costs. Make it a compitition, The divisions and groups that are most able to lower their costs the most will have fewer layoffs. Ideally, divisions should externalize costs, thereby increasing overall cost.

Speed is more important than quality. If we can get to market first, we will be able to fix any mistakes we made. There will always be time to fix such mistakes later.

157:

I think I have the ultimate wrecker tool to hand: toxic blame with a twist of misapplied technology.

Your starting point: a company where reporting bugs is discouraged by a punitive 'Shoot the messenger' culture. So everyone keeps quiet, and bugs are left to fester.

Others here have had that idea, and done rather well with it, so let's keep on going.

It would've helped if your build and version control system had been properly set up, but it's unfixable: there is no 'tech' solution to a social problem.

Conversely, there is always a 'tech' way of making a bad situation worse.

Fast forward.

It's year two, when the larvae of these buried eggs begin to hatch. Let politically-directed blame-shifting run it's course with secretive and socially-toxic and unjust dismissals...

And then, by heroic effort, you discover how to straighten out the records in the build system, and apply the 'blame' function.

Retrospectively.

And *today's* flavour of toxicity is public naming, shaming, and shouting, in commununal blame sessions.

Some people leave. Some people stay. Some people join from college, or from equally dysfunctional environments to yours, and they don't recognise the toxicity, and they adapt to it, internalise it, accept it all as normal.

You build a culture in which the route to success is the effective use of blame in singling out one employee at a time, and turning on them, one after another, after another.

The coding style is, by now, somewhat conservative.

And yes, you can make a business work like that, if your salesmen are a moral sewer and there's just enough functional technology for them to plant a pitch in rich manure of lies and lobbyists and legal expertise.

Internally, the culture is Gamergoatse in a time of plague in Lubjanka prison.

Believe it or not, such a culture can achieve a stable equilibrium and last for years. Decades, even.

How can we 'sabotage' that, and make it even worse?

Phase three: two of the most sociopathic individuals independently 'discover' an undocumented weakness in your miraculous fix to the build system. It allows them to frame and 'finger' anyone, for any reason, or none. And it doesn't matter if it's unjust, because everyone is so invested in the weekly ten minute hate of ritualised blame, that they keep on doing it regardless.

Yes, they do: you have a self-selected group of remainers - the ones who don't leave, no matter what - who have adapted to this toxic and dysfunctional community.

People really are like that: albeit not sustainably.

Sit back and turn up the thermostat: Hell is never quite hot enough, and when it does eventually disintegrate, you have a cadre of managers who will repeat your work in every organisation and community that they can lie their way into.

158:

Heh. We just did that to the Crown Estate.
Well, almost. We sent their financial director an email explaining we were a little confused about the restructure, and asking if the bailiffs should turn up to the old management company or the new one.

*Every* invoice we had owing was paid the following day, even the ones not due yet.

159:

I think I'm going to hide under the bed and gibber now.

(This sounds like something HiveCo would do. I really have to scrape together the time to finish a first draft of that novel and find someone to publish it ...)

160:

It sounds like fairly standard Boskonian practice to me...

161:

Because data retention is so damned important, every time that vendors update their formats or come out with major revisions of their software, require that employees open all of their files with the new version and re-save it natively to the new format, if applicable. You might also require that employees spot check a certain percentage of the converted files to ensure that no data is lost.

162:

I never spent much time among the SDM monks, too junior, but I PFY'd among associated chicken-wavers.

163:

That sounds like Scientologists or suchlike, as well as a number of political organisations.

164:

I wonder how the software side of Heavens Gate operated.

165:

Are you trying to think up new Tory party policies? It's just their HE white paper came out today and seems to be full of stupidity.

166:

You don't need ISO9000 to have counterproductive processes; I've actually seen ISO9000 accreditation given to existing, sensible processes through the use of some gifted justifications by a good QA team and the occasional weasel word or three :)

No, to stuff things up, you let the engineers with spare time come up with the processes. You know, the ones that no-one really wants in their team, because they're a bit rubbish. Or you let the obsessives do it. Because, of course, they won't write down what you already do - they won't be able to resist "improving" it according to their personal perspective.

Now, you make sure that any process changes are revolutionary, not evolutionary. Sell it as a silver bullet; this has the advantage that any evolved, sensible processes already in place, will have to be abandoned in favour of that one or two persons' "Really Good Idea (tm)" that will certainly not be followed by most...

167:

Number 9 is a must. Nothing I like better than scheduled meetings. Whoever thought up daily stand-ups (and you know how you are) deserves a kicking.

168:

Think "big thoughts" then hand them off to a group of people to develop as they see fit imposing no boundaries or structure. If challenged explain that anarchism maximises creativity.

169:

A former employer of mine, a publisher, came up with the idea of having all production jobs merged, so that instead of copy editors, proofreaders, and production managers, there were just one big group of people scheduling production, copy editing, and proofreading. Before this the three groups had been instantly recognizable by their having quite different personality traits and cognitive styles.

It's also a useful idea, when you adopt a new way of handling part of the work flow, to assign the job of training people for it to an employee who has seniority gained under the old work flow and doesn't really trust the new process.

170:

My work here is done and I claim my radioactive hairless cat.

The only possible way that the scenario could be even worse is for the software 'product' to be a horror from the city of Ry'aleh. Universal Credit, say, or mass surveillance 'other shoe' collation and misuse of relationship data.

Although a successful malvertiser moving into antiviral software for the public sector has a certain... Panache.

171:

See for example Nokia under Stephen Elop.

Even now, years after the fact, I'm not sure if that was delibrate or if Elop just was incompetent to run Nokia. It doesn't change the fact, of course, and he might have been a useful idiot there, sent by somebody else.

There were at the time a lot of things which were not optimal in that company. (Disclaimer: I worked in the Meego.)

Of course, the Microsoft hasn't been exactly crushing the opposition with its phone sales, either, after they acquired them from Nokia.

172:

Have you worked for a certain medical device company in East Yorks?

Lots of exciting training about snitching on your colleagues and not attempting to bribe clinicians with exactly the unskippable condescending content you describe.

Add in a mandatory but ultimately pointless (at least to the employer whose opinions it claimed to be measuring) biannual "global opinion survey" for extra fun and you're about there.

173:

employee...

174:

"Your starting point: a company where reporting bugs is discouraged by a punitive 'Shoot the messenger' culture. So everyone keeps quiet, and bugs are left to fester."

One ParcelForce sorting centre was like that a couple of decades back. The workers were not using the IT system properly and management did not know why. Neither side talked to each other so they hired me to find out why.
I just asked the guys who were supposed to use the system what was wrong with it. Simples! £3000 for a weekend's work and a report on how to fix it.
The fix included things like having entry boxes that did not crash the system if too many characters were entered.

175:

Sore point: I still have a Nokia 770 kicking around in a drawer in my office. And a 9000i Communicator in its original box gathering dust on the top shelf of one of my office bookcases, next to the G4 Cube ...

176:

Stack Overflow is very useful.
I suspect that the other Stack Exchanges are less so depending on the number of amateurs who infest them.
Physics is not bad, but Electronics... the joy of being downvoted by amateurs who do not understand the complexity of the question being asked and/or which seems boring.

177:

You will notice that many of the above tactics are also those recommanded in this guide :

"How to commit fraud and get away with it: A Guide for CEOs"

http://www.macroresilience.com/2013/12/04/how-to-commit-fraud-and-get-away-with-it-a-guide-for-ceos/

and this is not a coincidence - the TLDR summary at the top of the link goes this way :

Shorter Version

A strategy to maximise bonuses and avoid personal culpability:

* Don’t commit the fraud yourself.
* Minimise information received about the actions of your employees.
* Control employees through automated, algorithmic systems based on plausible metrics like Value at Risk.
* Pay high bonuses to employees linked to “stretch” revenue/profit targets.
* Fire employees when targets are not met.
* …..Wait.


178:

That's SOP for government budgets in Germany and probably elsewhere.

179:

That's a standard part of supply chain optimization, isn't it? At least the big car manufacturers in southern Germany adopted it a few years ago.

180:

@Dirk at 176:

"Stack Overflow is very useful.
I suspect that the other Stack Exchanges are less so depending on the number of amateurs who infest them."

Sciences, I wouldn't know, but autumn before last I did inhabit other sites in the system, about which I did know something. In some kind of discussion of English usage, don't remember the details now, I had referred to people thinking AIDS unwelcome, and a moderator or whatever they call it there, a bossman, gave me a right dressing-down for not DOCUMENTING this irresponsible assertion. Not failure to document the science or anything, you understand, failure to document simply that most people don't want to catch it. So Stack Exchange owes me for a new idiotometer, but I'm still waiting.

181:

Sounds as though someone escaped from wikipedia.

StackOverflow can be useful but it keeps telling me that things I have already managed to implement are impossible so I don't take it too seriously.

182:

"Sounds as though someone escaped from wikipedia."


Every human endeavor starts up with enthusiasm and ends up in bureaucracy and power grabbing.

183:

If you really want to sabotage an enterprise who do that kind of year-end tally to work out next year's budget for each department ...

Point out that doing it on a fixed annual cycle encourages wasteful spending at the year end, and then move to doing it on the basis of spending during a randomized three month period at some unknown time during the year!

That way they've got an incentive to over-spend ALL the time, not just at year's end!

184:

@dpb at 181:

"Sounds as though someone escaped from wikipedia."

If I ever meet one of these jerks and he refers to being a human, I shall ask him whether that assertion has been peer-reviewed.

(Who was that American who asked Trump to document that he wasn't an orang-utan? Might have been John Stewart.)

At the age of 14 I read the Socratic Dialogues and went round asking everyone what they really meant by anything they said, made myself a total pain in the arse. If Wiki and SE had existed then, I'd have been demanding documentation for universals of the human condition. Can you say "scholarship's cargo cult"? But don't worry, I'm all growed up now!


185:

@OGH at 183:

"Point out that doing it on a fixed annual cycle encourages wasteful spending at the year end, and then move to doing it on the basis of spending during a randomized three month period at some unknown time during the year!"

I Am Not An Economist, but like to ask what is the difference between New Public Management metrics with their private-sector equivalents, as discussed here, and the old Soviet economy with its "storming" at the end of the month. You remember, they used to have so little time, having being deprived of components for the first 21 days of each month, that they had to put screws in with a hammer. Stack rankings, Stakhanov, gesundheit!

186:

"But don't worry, I'm all growed up now!"

[citation needed]

Going back to the sabotage thing I suppose insisting on citations for every assertion in all internal documentation might slow things down nicely.

187:

But only from reputable sources

188:

I am a little surprised no one has yet mentioned the classic "How to write unmaintainable code", which is a great source of tips for the budding programmer (and manager wishing to drive a company into the ground).
Policies could include:
* Everyone has to use Hungarian Notation (e.g. i_ for ints, f_ for floats, and s_ for strings; as opposed to that other Hungarian Notation (e.g. u_ for unsafe, and s_ for safe));
* To encourage diversification, and to allow all cultures to feel at home, people can (and should -- don't you want to express yourself?) write comments (and variable, constant, function and class names) in their own languages. If people only speak English, have mandatory Czech lessons.
* "Never check input data for any kind of correctness or discrepancies. It will demonstrate that you absolutely trust the company's equipment as well as that you are a perfect team player who trusts all project partners and system operators. Always return reasonable values even when data inputs are questionable or erroneous."
* "In the name of efficiency, use cut/paste/clone/modify. This works much faster than using many small reusable modules."
* "Declare every method and variable public. After all, somebody, sometime might want to use it." - The opposite of information hiding. (You could then have another policy later about how information should be hidden.)

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

189:

It's All Taylorism.

The USSR faced exactly the same problem as the capitalist world -- how to handle resource allocation in an industrial(izing) economy. It shouldn't be surprising that they turned to the same solutions, with the distinctive twist that capitalist corporations could externalize their social costs onto the state -- when the state is a corporation (as to all intents and purposes it was, under Stalin) you can't shrug and walk away from the "useless mouths" without risking them rioting or holding another revolution. (Hence the GULAG/bullet to back of neck approach.)

The reason western corporations fire people instead of literally shooting them is that they don't need to: otherwise, you've got the same sociopaths running the same command economies, tucked neatly out of sight behind a curtain of "Freedom" prating propaganda.

190:

That document is funny. Some of the misc headings:

  • "Combine Bug Fixes With Upgrades"
  • "Change File Formats With Each Release Of Your Product"
  • "Custom Script Language"

191:

Another one you can do as an individual; when anyone is hired who's better than you but distinct from you in an "affirmative action" category, have lots of loud conversations about times when "affirmative action" has resulted in hiring a worse choice. On the other hand, if someone better than you but matching you in "affirmative action" categories is hired, make lots of noise about how the company is becoming a cultural monoculture, and chooses to hire people like you rather than the best people for the job. Go quiet when the new hires are noticeably worse than you.

With a bit of luck, you'll convince new hires who are better than you that this is a toxic environment for them, and they should move on. This then leads you into round 2 of making the place worse; you need to constantly complain that no-one decent is being hired, and that the company needs to step up its recruiting game.

192:

That's getting into the kind of territory that can get you fired if you aren't careful. Counterproductive if you want to be a long term drag on the organisation.

193:

"Combine Bug Fixes With Upgrades"

This can get to be hard to avoid when you have very large systems with 10,000s of users.

You get to either roll out changes more frequently (along with release notes and such[1]) or more massively and take a greater chance of having to roll back things.

[1] The more frequent the release notes the less likely they are to be read.

194:

Got another link for that document? My browser said the link you pasted is hacked and strongly recommended not going there.

195:

This seems to be the same document.

196:

At the tail end of a depression, when salaries have been frozen, your best have left and you are months into a death march, hire new Principal Engineers to come in on top of everyone, higher salaries than existing staff.

But don't let them change anything. They must work the existing arcane and broken workflows as currently exist, thus making them less efficient than, and hated by, existing developers.

Rub it in to existing staff that they're not worth promoting because "they came in at the bottom and have no outside experience".

197:

Phase three: two of the most sociopathic individuals independently 'discover' an undocumented weakness in your miraculous fix to the build system. It allows them to frame and 'finger' anyone, for any reason, or none.

Aren't we there already?

With "Signature Strikes" abroad ... and at home with automagick classifiers, which are themselves classified, rummaging through all traffic on the internet supposedly fingering terrorists.

We just need to add some Incentives, some good KPI's like, "terrorist masterminds whacked per year", "charges filed per police hour", bonuses linked to it. Some brown dude gets to live and management misses a KPI .. Naaah!

198:

Okay ... maybe because IT is still youngish as an industry, but why no mention of these classics:

• Nepotism
• My company is a hobby and I don't care whether or not you think it makes sense, just DO IT!
• It's my company, so that makes me right!

199:

I think you are vastly underestimating the age of the IT industry, and the way you are presenting your suggestions, they are just general failure modes of companies. You need to link them clearly into the theme of deliberately sabotaging a company.

200:

OH SHIT!
I turn my back for 36 hours ( Casting/filming work) & this happens.
OK: - I used to work for an worldwide-household-name "corporation" that already did most of those things.
The UK tiny-remaining-segment is now closing.
Who were they?
Eastman Kodak.
The final message is, that no matter how big & powerful you are, if you follow these rule ... you WILL go bust.

201:

When new hires deploy builds, be sure it's after 5pm on Friday.

202:

I give in ... I can't read all this all-too-true-&-depressing stuff
Try "Further up the Organisation" If you can find a copy ....

203:

Well, it's been amusing to read everyone's anecdotal accounts of toxic practices at various organizations. But it's pretty clear that none of you have ever played this game for reals. The easy approach, of course, is collect all the passwords and hand them over to Anonymous, make sure they get sysadmin access. But that's not fun enough:

1. Start soliciting employee feedback regarding company wide "Best Practices". Toss the actual feedback, but generate a fake survey database using the ideas from this list (dress it all up in positive corporate speak, naturally), and then leak it to the press. Watch the share price tumble. Buy the shares.

2. Allow one or more of these "former" employees, now working for your rival, steal access to your own proprietary information (make sure it's nothing you really intend to develop). Encourage these former employees to share the ideas with their new employer (your rival). It only takes one of these making it to market, and now you sue them.

3. After you have managed to plant one of your former employees into their IT department, secretly acquire an IT startup. Encourage them to start developing a new enterprise management application. Make open steps to buy this package for your own company (but never actually implement it). Now secretly encourage your plant to suggest buying this application for their company (we have to stay competitive!). Make sure it's cancelled in the middle of their implementation.

I could go on all day generating ideas like this, but I wanted to stay within the "3 bullet limit".

204:

1) to avoid unnecessary production delays, and achieve competitive pricing we shall source all large quantity purchases from two or more vendors

Surely you mean solicit quotes from multiple vendors and award the contract to the best proposal?
No

I may not have quoted verbatim, but that's how we ended up with HP, Dell, and Lenovo workstations that have widely differing innards (seriously, some of these things require ECC RAM for some strange reason)

205:

@Tom at 204:

"Surely you mean solicit quotes from multiple vendors and award the contract to the best proposal?"

As I understand it, doing that is illegal under the EU procurement rules, at any rate in the public sector. Although not actually members, we in Norway are signed up for it. I observed the consequences in my previous profession. Dunno whether the UK is opted out of that bit, I look forward to being told.

No, the contract MUST go to the cheapest bid, regardless of probable quality. Only after a year of bad service can the emptor say, "Screw those incompetents, we'll give it to the next-cheapest". Not, nota bene, the likely best, but the next-cheapest. 'Tis the law, or at any rate our interpretation thereof. I call it the Cowboys' Charter.

As a private citizen, I tend to take the diametrically opposite tack and behave like a Japanese manufacturer in the golden age, taking my custom to people I trust regardless of price and treating them like family.

206:

No, the contract MUST go to the cheapest bid, regardless of probable quality.

That's wrong. 70% of contracts under EU Public Procurement laws don't take the cheapest bidder approach. Someone in your organisation was either being lazy or its part of the raw deal Norway gets for being only half in the 'club'.

"There are two award criteria for contracts: lowest price or economically most advantageous tender (EMAT), which looks at both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the tender. In the data EMAT is used in 70 percent of contracts, corresponding to about 80 percent of values procured. The price only
criterion is therefore relatively more common in smaller contracts."

Taken from p5 of a study by PWC of EU public procurement patterns. http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/publicprocurement/docs/modernising_rules/cost-effectiveness_en.pdf


207:

There are two award criteria for contracts: lowest price or economically most advantageous tender (EMAT), which looks at both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the tender.

Of course, the hard problem is writing the qualitative and quantitative aspects into the request for quotes. The price is probably the easiest criterion to use, but others can and should be used.

208:

Gordycoale @206:

Well, it would not have been my organisation but the Foreign Ministry, the emptor. They were the ones told us the rules. Would I believe "lazy"? You bet. And we were indeed a small contractor, to deliver in the single-figure million-kroner bracket, so I think I was right after all, for what I was talking about.

FYI the business was translation, first in connection with our failed entry attempt and then the establishment of the EEA. Since English is my mother-tongue I didn't work on the tonnes and tonnes of documents myself, but this is what I heard from those who did. Incidentally, we all understand written Danish perfectly well (for the spoken language think hairball), and all this stuff was already in Danish, but you know how it is. (Danger of going too far off-topic there.)

It's nice to know that EMAT can be used for bigger tenders, thanks. The way the state invariably fucks up its tech procurement must have some other cause, then. :-)

But surely we can add price-only subcontracting to our menu of how to wreck companies and industries?

209:

1. Mandatory Hot Desks. Employees cannot sit at the same desk two days in a row. (Make sure than some of the 'desks' are coaches with low tables.)

2. Go to the Cloud. All employees must use Chromebooks and only Chromebooks. Ensure that access to anything takes minutes per item.

3. Role Swapping. Employees should be multi-skilled, so institute role rotation every few months.

210:

That's wrong. 70% of contracts under EU Public Procurement laws don't take the cheapest bidder approach. Someone in your organisation was

Ahh - but - Remember the topic: Legal and Procurement are good places to inject clandestine subversive efforts ... someone is doing their work there already!

211:

Over a decade ago, I worked (briefly) for a medium-sized family-owned business which followed all three of your points...

- the "I'm right, just do it or else" actions of the owner / MD meant that heads of department were, by now, yes-men. Sensible decisions got back-pedalled and denied the second that the owner / MD indicated displeasure.

- the "or else" aspect meant that the HR Department allegedly spent a chunk of time and money buying off the "you're fired!" employees from going to an industrial tribunal for unfair or constructive dismissal claims.

- the "nepotism" aspect was demonstrated when a new Head of R&D was appointed to run a 30+ engineer team, at age 31 (with the advantage of calling the owner / MD "Dad"). Within four months, five out of six teams leaders (his direct reports) had resigned from the firm. The heir-apparent's management approach included shouting at someone in an open-plan office; and deciding that if Microsoft could sack their least-effective 10% every year, then so should he.

Said firm continues to amble along somehow, but it could have been so much better... and the owner really believes that any lack of success is all down to poor industrial policy within the UK, and is in no way a reflection of family management skills creating a toxic environment.

Sometimes, no malign external influence is required. Corporate self-harm is alive and well :(

212:

Not only cannot sit at the same desk two days in a row, but to encourage collaboration between people who otherwise might not, and to discourage nepotism, people are not allowed to sit next to the same people two days in a row.

Of course, managers are special, the above (hot desking etc.) does not apply to them.

213:

If you're management, mix your messages between your public statements and your private statements to your employees.

For example (again, taken from a real job), in public, tell your employees that the company will pay for anything that helps them do their jobs. In private, tell the same employees that money is tight and that they should expect to pay for things like mains cables out of their own pay.

Then get surprised when employees leave - after all, you're *so* generous in your offers.

214:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: Comments are now disabled until about 9am tomorrow, so I can do a safe full backup before the server goes down for physical relocation in the early hours tonight.

215:

Sometimes, no malign external influence is required. Corporate self-harm is alive and well
In approx 1970, Kodak UK employed approx 6-8000 people just at its main Harrow manufacturing plant & laboratories.
Now, we all know film has lost out to digital, but EK did every single thing wrong, including refusing to purchase digital companies early enough, as well as going all US "anti-union" at exactly the wrong time.
They are finally shutting up shop, in November this year.

216:

Lots of these ideas vs hotdesking (and more) in Snow Crash

217:

Kodak did lots of work on digital early on but killed it as it would cannibalise existing physical film.

Nice summary here http://mashable.com/2012/01/20/kodak-digital-missteps/#97Z.4IpvrZqH

with plenty of headdesk moments...

218:

Realise that certain services, such as network administration, system administration, service desks, and DBAs, are commodities and so should be outsourced to the lowest bidder - with iron-clad detailed SLAs to ensure that standards are met.

(Seriously: a client of ours has done this. Major global bank. The SLAs were written by lawyers with no clue about IT and run to many hundreds of pages. My dev team lost access to their unix home directories a month ago and haven't got them back yet. The NAS our servers use stops working for a few seconds now and then, bringing down many systems, but it took quite a while to realise that as the log files don't show what happened. I don't have words to describe the alleged DBAs.)

219:

I had a couple of early Kodak digital cameras; they weren't bad but they weren't brilliant either. They did offer a couple of innovative concepts such as a developer group and an API for people to write programs to use their cameras for applications like industrial inspection but it was a bit half-hearted. I still have the dev group T-shirt somewhere...

Their problem was that they weren't a camera company but a film-manufacturing business -- yes I know about the Brownies and the like but they were very low-end film cameras. They didn't build their own sensors or develop their own camera chassis, lenses etc. for their digital products but relied mainly on outsourcing.

The survivors in the digital camera world are the camera makers like Canon and Nikon and a few other electronics companies like Sony, Panasonic etc. who were already producing compact video cameras (VHS-c, Hi-8 etc.).

220:

"All work environments must be virtualized and stashed on the corporate file servers for safe-keeping"

This is a picture of an office I was working in, after the earthquake. My desk is off-screen to the right. Not obvious from the picture is that the sprinkler system went off when the ceiling fell in.

The developers with virtualized desktops were up and going working from home the next day (and for the next several months). Those of us with actual PCs under our desks were not so lucky. So I was busy holding together an ad hoc DR solution for that client with sticky-tape and glue, mostly by phoning people a few thousand miles away and telling them what to type.

Quite fun really, to be honest.

221:

The secret is to have everything woefully under specced.

It sounds as though your lot commited the cardinal sin of paying for proper servers, decent bandwidth and laptops with enough memory to run a VM.

It is possible to make that sort of setup incredibly painful by cutting the right corners.

222:

There is no real need to tell people employees that money is tight.

Just make the process of ordering so complex and random that employees give up and purchase the items themselves...

223:

Demand big improvements without changing anything.

I was parachuted into a software project that was in trouble - the requirements were unclear, there was no credible plan, the team had cycled through 3 or 4 "methodologies", the only undisputed facts were that the project was late and over budget.

This happens.

The best way to fix this, of course, is to demand improvement - but don't allow anything to change, especially not the "time/money/scope/quality" constraints.

Genius.

224:

I hope I don't get bounced for derailing. If so, I'll go quietly, I'm not a troll, honest.

But reading all this business-school jargon (is there an equivalent term to "psychobabble"? If so I'd like to learn it) makes me reflect on the core human enterprise of justifying nonsense. It reminds me of the architectural codswallop I used to have to translate. You know, if you put the Gherkin down bang in the middle of a Regency terrace, it would be enjoying a "dynamic dialogue" with the surroundings. Et cetera.

Seems to me that there is NO malignant crap that cannot be talked up with the aid of these buzzwords, probably up to and including the Shoah. (Someone do the presentation for Jews-to-lampshades conversion.) Who was it claimed that Power Point destroys brain cells?

I think I'm in Charlie's "business-plan virus" territory now and I hope he gives us more of what I found one of the best ideas in modern SF.

225:

Meta meta on the wall ... Somewhere, someone is really worried that their underlings might be out to wreck their company, after reading this. So any middle manager suggesting any policy that was mentioned in this thread is immediatly under suspicion of sabotage and fired at their first excuse.

226:

Yes, but Martin, we were trying to discuss this safely, so we, erm, reversed things. What managers really have to worry about is exactly the opposite of the things we were talking about.

227:

All document storage is outsourced to another company. Compared to doing it in-house, it's cheaper (because outsourcing always saves money) and more secure (because they're a Certified Best Practice Security Services Vendor).

If you need access to any document, just fill in the request form with a business justification, get it signed by your manager and send it to the CFO for approval. If approved, your request will be posted to the outsourcing company who will print out the document and send it to our legal department. They will redact any portions that your business justification does not cover and then forward it to you.

In order to meet our recycling targets, any documents must be recycled within seven days of your original request.

This policy applies to all documents, including source code files.

228:

You need to tell employees privately that money is tight for the contrast between public statements (no problem buying anything you need) and private statements (we're one mistake away from bankruptcy - don't ask me to spend anything). Nothing else has the required effect on employee morale.

229:

Coming in incredibly late (as usual) - Implement an "efficiency dividend" or "productivity benchmark" - basically, another word for "expect 20% more work out of the same number of people in the same amount of time for 10% less budget each year" (This will, after a few years, naturally translate to losing staff, unless they can figure out a way to perform miracles)[1].

Or here, have one I came up with for a fanfic: staff movements and activities have to be updated in real time, in each of two separate systems for HR and Finance. HR and Finance use different coding systems for each activity, two different conceptual frameworks to describe the activities being recorded, and different database structures, and each update will require being fluent in both systems simultaneously. Oh, and for the icing on top: the two systems synchronise every fifteen minutes. If your employee's information in the two systems doesn't match, it gets wiped entirely, and the employee is not paid. Neither system will notify anyone when this happens.

[1] For details on how this is working so far, try phoning any of the service delivery agencies for the Australian Department of Human Services (apparent motto: "have you been serviced today?")

230:

One simple hack that's eminently plausible is to disseminate to HR a policy on time off requests designating employees as 'mission critical' based on salary - obviously, higher paid staff MUST be that much more important to the business or they wouldn't be paid so well.

The evil genius is that a well-run, ethical organization would run on something like that basis, but in the real world letting all the entry level peons skive off on a moment's notice while leaving senior management perpetually in place to meddle in operations would leave a smoking hole in the ground.

231:

> All coders have to take in in turns to do customer support.

I've lived this one. The product was portable C software delivered in source form, and there are customers in this space who will insist on taking theirs by phone (vs. e-mail), reading bits of C over the phone at you and demanding immediate answers or simply asking "what do I do now that I've got your software?"

And yes, you kept your support issues when the turn passed to the your co-worker. Lots of fun when the customer wanted to keep asking you new questions as they came to mind.

And then we got a manager who liked to change the support schedule around on short notice.

232:

Don't roll out new versions of important software on a limited basis. All new versions should be implemented organization-wide on the same day...

This is a fine suggestion but it fails to spell out one important point. All users get the new software at exactly the same time -- including tech support! If the tech support people got their hands on it before everyone else they'd be out of synch with the people they were helping (and would have seen the software before the people they were supposed to help). Management may or may not schedule extra bodies for the big rollout day.

You may think I'm making this up but I'm not. This was SOP for a whole state, too...

233:

Small, subtle, carefully crafted interventions in office seating plans.

Someone, somewhere in an organisation I worked in about 10 years ago decided it would be amusing to place three people called Jonathon doing vaguely similiar jobs with overlapping contacts (both external and internal to the organiisation) at adjacent desks sharing a telephone extension. Oh the fun we used to have...

234:

My wife works for a local university. Some years ago, she had three women seated behind her in the office, all named Rachel. One of these was her assistant, one of these was one of our friends, and one was neither.

For some reason, if she just called out 'Rachel' there'd be more than one response.

(We referred to them as 'her Rachel', 'our Rachel' and 't'other Rachel'.)

235:

A fan group I used to hang with over in the States had a surfeit of people called Bill (including at least one lady). They got issued numbers when together, but one of them used his number more generally. He parlayed that into a Tuckerisation in a David Weber novel where the other characters wonder why Admiral William Anders is called "Five".

236:

When the giant GodzillaCorp finally chases down and consumes the merely huge BrontosaurusCo it does not necessarily follow that any function of the latter will be allowed to continue merely because the former wished to take over all functions of the latter.

This is when flunkies of Godzilla are brought in, with minimal knowledge of the job or of Brontosaurus, to interview all Brontosaurus people to see if they should be allowed to continue doing the jobs that they are doing. Mere demonstration of competence is irrelevant; are they good at sucking up to random Godzilla personnel? Since the name on the company letterhead has changed these people are obviously new hires, not entitled to any seniority accumulated when working for Brontosaurus, and might not be hired at all. No, nobody making those decisions is involved with making any of the old functions actually happen.

In the meantime I've changed the name of Godzilla because you've heard of them and they have many lawyers. Supposedly this was a few years back and they're turning their culture around now, honest...

237:

That was Bill Maher. Stewart picked it up when Trump sued.

238:

A fan group I used to hang with over in the States had a surfeit of people called Bill

My birth year my first name was big in the US. My senior year of high school there were 11 people in our physics class. 5 of us with the same first name.

239:

I have one.

"Every time you have something you could send an email to inform everyone about, hold an hour meeting instead."

240:

There are a few kicking around. Some personae are familiar, while I'm sure lots more are totally different.

241:

I still have my trusty RFC2321 RITA in a drawer somewhere. It once spent several years in an especially troublesome network riser helping keep that floor connected and gathering concrete dust, so the patina is (even) more eldritch than usual, but it works well enough. Occasionally get it out to wave over the damn @ppl3 wifi router.

242:

Oh, you Europeans. You haven't lived until you've tried uniquely American solutions.

1. Arm your company security guards. Let them prowl the halls occasionally looking for problems. I mean, just look at how paranoid those employees are when you walk past and they look at your quick-draw holster.

2. Allow open-carry in the office. There will be plenty of people who will be happy to show that they're ready for anything, especially if anything goes wrong during that employee evaluation you're giving them. Really, what's the worst that could happen?

243:

Institute rigorous change management control procedures, under an agile method of development. Each "story" can encompass no more than a single change or addition of a function call. An "epic" may have no more than 5 "stories", and require unanimous approval of the change control sub-committee for preliminary impact review before proceeding to the full committee for review.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 15, 2016 6:49 PM.

Three Unexpectedly Good Things VR Will Probably Cause was the previous entry in this blog.

Upcoming Appearances: Washington DC and Baltimore is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda