Lately I’ve been spending time in committee meetings. We love our committee meetings here in Wales, although if you’d like an alternative view, here’s Seth’s Blog on “If committees told the truth”. The one thing committees are great for is spotting sabotage and the meeting saboteurs at work. I thought it would be helpful to update the spotting
field sabotage guide so here goes with five of my recent favourites.
What’s going on? This is an effective tactic for creating a general air of confusion and disorganisation. Just preface your contribution with any one of the following statements. You can see the despair in people’s eyes, especially the Clerk.
- “I haven’t got a clue where we are on the agenda, but………”
- “I’m not sure this is relevant here, but………
- “This might have said by someone else before, but……”
The Black Swan. These are incredibly rare or improbable things. The Black Swan is a book that will explain all of this if you are interested (currently unread on my bookshelf). In the context of a committee meeting it is the astonishingly ‘off the topic’ question that just leaves people slack-jawed thinking “where on earth did that one come from?” It’s a massively effective sabotage technique for just messing things up and disrupting a discussion thread or line of questioning. For example have a look at this Tickling Slow Loris video, you’ll completely forget about this post.
Repeat what just happened. This is a difficult one to pull off. Just calmly repeating what has been said or asked previously. It takes some nerves to remain stony faced and not give the game away. The end result is brilliant and well worth that same slack-jawed astonishment. Sometimes you’ll even get a different response to the same question, always interesting. This happened once to my Sister in a job interview (by committee). I think she was quite happy not to get the job with that organisation.
Doing your Sudoku (or crossword). I’m all for multi-tasking, reading the papers for the next item is fine, but doing Sudoku is ridiculous. What’s even worse is when the Sudoku enthusiast is sitting in clear sight of someone giving a presentation. A bit of a motivation killer really.
Sleeping. Brilliant! The absolute best,especially when it’s combined with any of the above. It’s amazing how often this sabotage technique is used to maximum effect, even before midday. People are generally very reluctant to wake up the sleeper, or even mention it. The impact is huge though, saying everything you need to know about the meeting,“this meeting is really boring, look I’m asleep!”
Obviously this has all been happening at a low-level, limited significance committee I’ve
been attending; the ‘Village Hall, Repainting of the Bike Shed, Sub Committee’. You’d never see this sort of thing at any hugely important committee that oversees millions of pounds of expenditure and the activity of 100’s of people.
So, what’s the PONT?
- The saboteurs are everywhere, highly skilled and you need to be vigilant.
- Some of the sabotage is so subtle that the saboteurs might not even know they are doing it.
- Challenge is hard to do (what are you trying to prove?). The people best placed to do this are probably peers.
Links to previous posts:
- Spotting Field Sabotage http://whatsthepont.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/spotting-field-sabotage/ links to the 1944 CIA Simple Field Sabotage Manual , section on “General Interference with Organisations and Production” (meetings).
- Spot the Meeting Saboteur Checklist http://whatsthepont.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/spot-the-meeting-saboteur-checklist/ a handy print out and keep checklist for spotting meeting saboteurs.