The Project Saboteur’s Handbook

There are many ways to sabotage a project. Recognizing them is the first crucial step to counter them. In this brief handbook I will present a number of ways of sabotage that I have encountered in various projects. This post is the saboteur’s handbook. The countermeasures will be saved for another post.

Enough of introduction. It’s time to enter the dark mind of a project saboteur…

The Project Saboteur’s Handbook

The key success factor to sabotage a project is to draw attention and drain energy from those areas that are important to make the project successful. Any behaviour that draws the attention away from important work or drains energy from the project is allowed. Use your imagination and creativity to make sure that you never miss an opportunity drag the project one step closer to failure.

Strategy Overview

To give some inspiration on how to make a project fail I’ll present some strategies in this handbook.

  1. Focus on border issues to prove your own “knowledge”.
  2. Ask questions that you don’t understand the answer to. Keep ask for clarification.
  3. Avoid documentation.
  4. Avoid clear decisions.
  5. Ignore tasks assigned to you. Extra efficient if combined with the two points above.
  6. Focus on other’s few shortcomings.
  7. Keep meetings unfocused and avoid agendas.

Project Saboteur Taxonomy

While the methods of project saboteurs are similar, any project in the wild may encounter very different kinds of saboteurs. The Project Saboteur Taxonomy is an attempt to shed some light on the saboteurs in the wild.

Saboteur Types

This taxonomy contains five types. I am sure that there are plenty other types – please feel free to add more as comments!

  • The Insecure Person
  • The Lazy Worker
  • The Personal Enemy
  • The Evil Sceptic
  • The Enlightened Sceptic

The Project Counter-Sabotage Handbook

A project saboteur is a person doing his/her best to sink a project and cause it to fail through a variety of methods. Effective counter sabotage to identify and deal with project saboteurs as early as possible is a key success factor to any large project because there will always be a saboteur somewhere…

Know Your Enemy

To successfully counter any sabotage attempts you need to know your enemy. You definitely have to know what behaviour you want to counter. If you can find out the motivational factors for the sabotage it is even better. Often it is not possible to defer counter sabotage until the reasons for the sabotage are identified. In that case it is best to start acting against the destructive behaviour, watching the saboteur’s reactions to find out who he/she really is.

Counter Sabotage Methods

There are a number of basic methods for project counter sabotage. Most of them are good habits for any project, so go ahead and use them anyway. If no saboteur shows up in the project, practicing these habits has probably been good for the project anyways.

  • Documentation, Documentation and Documentation.
  • Meeting Discipline.
  • Take Conflicts when Needed.
  • Avoid Conflicts.
  • Use Humbleness Wisely.
  • Take the Saboteur Hostage in the Project.
Software Development is a Job – Coding is a Passion

I'm Anders Abel, an independent systems architect and developer in Stockholm, Sweden.

profile for Anders Abel at Stack Overflow, Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers

Code for most posts is available on my GitHub account.

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