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"Zeb was the kind of guy who was so secretive, not only didn't his right hand know what his left hand was doing, often his thumb was kept in the dark about what his fingers were up to."

Communication is the key to life. Good communication will lead to productivity and fewer wasted resources. Bad communication will only lead to headaches and heartbreaks.

In any sort of story, good communication will often be counterproductive to comedy and drama. But even in a dramatic sense, there are moments when the lack of communication is why two people are enemies, simply because they don't know what side the other is on. In a large organization, the intended goals are not always entirely clear to everyone. Sometimes the project is so secret that the two groups don't know the other is working on it. These will often lead two parts of the same group doing counter-productive things, not knowing what the other is working towards.

Hence the saying "The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing."

Sometimes this will lead to civil wars, a Face Heel Turn, a Heel Face Turn or simply to follow the age old goal that Hilarity Ensues. If you want to introduce likable but misguided antagonists to tangle with the heroes and villains, this is a good way to keep them fighting everyone and stay relateable. Usually, if it's one side that insists on not comparing notes, it's because they're an Ineffectual Loner who will sooner or later get creamed by the bad guys.

Eventually, you can be sure that the protagonists' side will win out over the other, or both will eventually sit down and talk things out once a member of each group go Go Karting and can vouch for the other. Expect someone to go "We Could Have Avoided All This". This doesn't need to be limited to two sides either, it gets very common with Loads and Loads of Characters acting independently of each other, but constantly bumping into each other because they all share the story.

Interestingly enough, there could almost be more Truth in Television examples than fictional examples.

See also Two Rights Make a Wrong, Poor Communication Kills, Let's You and Him Fight, Interservice Rivalry, Civil Warcraft (often a result of this trope), Conflict Ball, and We ARE Struggling Together!. A romantic version is the Two-Person Love Triangle. No connection to Evil Hand or The Night of the Hunter.

Examples of Right Hand Versus Left Hand include:


  • NERV versus SEELE in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Augmented by a lot of personal egos getting in the way and the sheer scale of the project. Not to mention the Gambit Pileup.
    • From a literal translation, it actually means the Nerve of the Mind who would dare to defy the Throne of the Soul. Though the only real ones in charge was Gendo Ikari the Commander of NERV, Keel Lorenz Number 01 of SEELE, and the Spanner in the Works ...Yui Ikari, AKA Eva-01 itself.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Exactly What It Says on the Tin. This is the name given by the series for multiple individuals participating in chains of events that while independent have an end result that seems planned or coordinated. I.e. multiple groups strive for the same goal and the end result looks like it was done by one group.
  • There's some tragic backstory for a doppleganger in Vision of Escaflowne. He was impersonating an army soldier during a war, and struck down an enemy soldier, only for the enemy to be revealed as another doppleganger--his brother.
  • In Seirei no Moribito, most of the cast turn out to be working toward the same ultimate goal; the conflict comes from the fact that the two main groups involved have very different ideas about exactly what's going on and what needs to happen in order to see that goal accomplished, and have no communication between them for most of the series. Once they do start communicating, they soon manage to align their efforts.


  • The end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where Quasi is madly fighting off the Gypsies who are trying to save Esmeralda, believing them to be bad guys, and helping the guards who are trying to kill Esmeralda, believing them to be good guys. What a tragic, tragic setup.
  • In nearly every modern monster movie it would be easy to defeat the monster if the human characters would stop bickering and cooperate. This is usually because if the special effects budget is too small to feature the monster a lot, having characters argue is an alternate way to introduce combat and suspense. Handled well (George Romero's zombie movies, for example) this can be an effective way to introduce human drama and suspense. Handled badly (like in most made for TV Sci Fi channel movies) it generates frustration among the viewers as it can involve handing characters the Idiot Ball and making the monster seem non-threatening.
  • In In the Line of Fire, the Secret Service agents are investigating the home of a man planning to kill the President. They wind up getting into a scuffle with CIA agents who, unknown to them, are also investigating the man. Later we find out that the CIA has a complete file on the killer because they trained him. Unfortunately the information is classified, meaning that they are legally forbidden to share it with the Secret Service agents working alongside them.
    • Not true. The law isn't that stupid. Any information needed to protect the life of the president may be shared with the Secret Service, regardless of classification. In any case, the head of the CIA can always ask the President himself to permit it. The President can declassify or otherwise change classification at will. It was more of a case of the CIA guys wanted to handle it the killer themselves to keep his connection with them secret from everyone.
  • Inglourious Basterds has a great example of this, where two plans to kill the German High Command come to a successful fruition, even though neither side knows of the other.
  • Don't Say a Word.
  • The bad guys engaging in this saves the Mariachi's life in Desperado. Danny Trejo's master knife-thrower is seconds away from killing him when a bunch of gunmen drive up, mistake Trejo for the Mariachi, and shoot him full of holes. When they get back to base, their boss is on the phone to his bosses, who are telling him about their master knife-thrower who they've sent to town.


  • Half the plot of Wheel of Time rests on this trope, for both sides. It would have been a much shorter series if people simply talked to each other. (The other half resting on those same people just not caring and feeling that they alone should be the ones running the show.) This is particularly infuriating from the Aes Sedai, part of whose function is meant to aid co-operation and lead the fight, but who are laughably incompetent and mind bogglingly arrogant, splitting into several factions and still demanding everyone follow their lead alone. Everyone else simply follows their lead in trying to deal with things.
  • Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn runs into this repeatedly, being on the run from the rest of the Inquisition for much of his novels.
  • Dan Abnett's Ravenor has to operate free from the rest of the Inquisition in Ravenor Returned, which results in the Inquisition's declaring him rogue in Ravenor Rogue and hunting him.
  • There are aspects of this in the Honor Harrington Series. The First one (not admitted to until later) was that the ship in book 1 was intended as a test bed alone by BuShips. The First Space Lord goofed by putting it near any sort of combat.
    • Becomes huge issues later with the Peoples Republic of Haven. The fight to overthrow the Legislaturalists has all sorts of issues with differing factions in the government and the rebellion fighting. Later there's State Security and various different factions and heads often not keeping each other in the loop.
    • It only gets worse as the second Manticore/Haven war could have been averted entirely. Granted we now know that most of the communication failures, both inside the Republic's government, between Manticore's allies, and between Manticore and Heaven themselves are all part of a plan to that exact purpose.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. A major gripe of the protagonist, especially in "A Season for Slaughter", vis-a-vis his covert employers the Uncle Ira Group. The Uncle Ira Group on the other hand are constantly annoyed by his habit of going off half-cocked at Obstructive Bureaucrats instead of trusting them to handle things behind the scenes.
  • In the Warhammer 40000 novel Grey Knights, the secrecy of the titular Space Marine chapter and their operations is used by the Big Bad in order to set up a ~Let's You And Him Fight~.
  • This shows up in Starfighters of Adumar. General Wedge Antilles, an Ace Pilot of no small skill, is sent as an ambassador to the largest nation of a neutral world called Adumar, not because of any political acumen, but because the Adumari are pilot-mad. It's expected that the diplomatic liaison will tell him what to do, and Wedge will mostly be there to look good. But he gets shut out of everything but flying duels, and he refuses to kill Adumari in these duels. The liaison tells him that he should kill them; it's native custom and by not doing it he makes the New Republic look weak. The Imperial pilots kill in duels, and they look strong. Wedge refuses. The liaison talks the leader of this particular Adumari nation into going to war with the others to unify the planet, and it's expected that Wedge and his pilots will fight in this war - the Imperial pilots are doing it. Wedge refuses, and the ruler basically calls open season on him and his pilots, letting everyone try to kill them. They escape through a combination Indy Ploy / Xanatos Speed Chess, find that the New Republic flagship in orbit won't respond when they comm it, and go to ground, where Wedge finds that the liaison told the ruler that Wedge wanted to fight, but had been ordered not to and wanted to be killed honorably.
  • In Catch-22, two CID men are sent to Pianosa investigate someone who has been using the name "Washington Irving" on confidential letters. Unfortunately, neither one of them know that the other is on the base, and both are convinced that the other is in fact the person they have been looking for.
  • In almost all of Dale Brown's books, Patrick McLanahan and his team find about as much opposition from American military forces and politicians, at times all the way up to the POTUS, as they do from the actual enemy.

Live Action TV

  • In Kamen Rider Faiz, both Takumi Inui and Yuji Kiba were fighting against the evil Smart Brain corporation. But thanks to a whole heap of misunderstandings, Contrived Coincidences and stolen Transformation Trinkets, each thought that the other was The Dragon of Smart Brain. For a time, they were even friends in their human forms and enemies in their battle forms and never knowing.
    • In Kamen Rider Kabuto, the Heroes-R-Us organization has some highly shady higher-ups that our heroes and their Reasonable Authority Figure don't realize they're fighting, though the viewer does. And it turns out their allies aren't on the level. Then it turns out that the non-shady side of ZECT is unknowingly working for the Natives, that is, the non-shady members of the monster race known as the Worms. But one of them is in fact very shady and has his own plan different from that of anybody else. In other words, it's ZECT versus ZECT from start to finish, Worm vs. Worm with the introduction of the Natives, and Native Worm vs. Native Worm with the revelation of that hidden scheme revealed near the end. On top of that, ZECT has a "with us or against us" policy, and not all Riders are working for ZECT, so it's Rider vs. Rider more often than in any other series other than Kamen Rider Ryuki and its Highlander-like situation despite no Rider wanting the Worms to exterminate and replace humanity.
    • Even the Non-Serial Movie manages to pit ZECT against itself twice over: There's ZECT vs. Neo-ZECT (former ZECT members who want to create an organization that's like ZECT minus the douchebaggery) and then ZECT vs. the higher-up who wants the Worms to win because they store the memories of the humans they replace - he believes this is the only way for something of humanity to survive the post-apocalyptic world that occurred in the movie timeline For Want of a Nail.
  • Arrested Development: Nearly every episode is a mash-up of characters trying to keep the family out of trouble, but only making things worse. In the penultimate episode the criminal charges were dropped when it was learned that CIA East was using the Bluth family as a puppet for espionage, which the CIA West knew nothing about. The two department desks were right next to each other.
  • One of the funniest M*A*S*H episodes ever had an Army Intelligence officer and a CIA officer both show up in the 4077th pretending to be wounded to investigate Frank. Pierce and Mc Intyre have a lot of fun messing with Frank's file to convince both of them to barge in and arrest him at the exact same time for conflicting reasons.
  • There was an episode of Night Court that featured a substitute judge filling in for Harry; the substitute propositions Dan Fielding for a bribe, and Dan goes to the FBI. Hilarity Ensues, until eventually the bribe is consummated, and two groups of FBI men charge in. To quote the lead agents: "Bert?" "Ernie?" Turns out that the judge was working for the FBI in the first place, and was propositioning Dan as a Secret Test of Character. (I remember it purely because of the "Burt?" "Ernie?" punchline.)
    • An episode of Benson did the same.
  • Spooks plays with this in the last episode of Season 7 in particular. Section D are trying to stop a Russian nuclear bomb in London, but the FSB are hunting them through the streets. Harry realises the local FSB office probably doesn't have clearance to know about the bomb, since they'd all be killed in the blast. Once he tells them what's going on, they join forces and the FSB take out the bomb carrier so that the weapon can be defused.
  • In the the sixth season of The West Wing, Leo has a heart attack, leaving the White House temporarily sans Chief of Staff. One episode shows Josh and Toby flailing around the capital, making promises that cancel each other out, leading to a Republican complaining that "the left hand doesn't know what the far left hand is doing."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has one particularly amusing example: Spike and Faith have both gone through Heel Face Turns since they last saw each other, so when they meet again they fight due to each believing the other to still be evil.
    • Happened in a similar manner on Angel between Spike and Cordelia in the fifth season.

 Spike: She's evil, you gourmless tit.

Cordelia: Excuse me? Who bit whom?

Angel: Did you call me a tit?

Cordelia: I thought he had a soul.

Spike: I thought she didn't.

Cordelia: I do.

Spike: So do I.

Cordelia: Well, clearly, mine's better.

  • Happens all the time in Power Rangers. Most notable was the season where the series Grew The Beard, Power Rangers in Space, where such infighting was how the Big Bad got defeated.
  • There's a great scene in NCIS when Ziva discovers people spying on her and Tony (they're undercover). The agents and the spies spend a few minutes shouting "Federal agents!" and pointing guns at each other before they realize they have the same goal. This is just one of many episodes in which federal agencies have trouble working together.
  • Played in the Nash Bridges episode "Javelin Catcher". While Nash is trying to locate and apprehend a man before he blows up his former boss with a rocket launcher, Evan arrests the suspect for soliciting a prostitute. After the suspect is released, Nash almost mentions the trope by name.
  • Subverted on Prison Break. Linc and Michael are working at cross purposes during season four, and decide to go after Scylla separate from each other. But because of brotherly love, they still share information.
  • In the Burn Notice episode "Mind Games" Michael and Co. attempt to take down a loan shark. The first step of their plan: convince him that his trusted lieutenant is actually an undercover cop. Unfortunately, the guy actually is an undercover cop. So instead of framing him, they inadvertently blow his cover. Oops.
  • Season 1 of 24: Gaines asking Jack to kill Nina.
  • In Seasons 2 and 3 of The Wire, Stringer Bell becomes the Dragon Ascendant of the Barksdale gang after Avon Barksdale is sent to prison. Stringer and Avon have very different visions for how the future of the gang should play out, and spend much of their time covertly undermining each other's work, both intentionally and otherwise.
  • In season 4 of Sons of Anarchy the FBI, ATF and Justice Department are all working together to bring down the Sons who have allied themselves with a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. They do not know that the cartel leaders are actually CIA operatives who are using the Son's IRA connections to gain enough influence in Mexico's drug organizations to avert a possible Mexican civil war.

Newspaper Comics

  • The Far Side had a comic where the left hand was juggling a set of balls while the right hand scrawled out "The Left Hand Must Die" over and over again. The caption, of course was "Truly, the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing."

Tabletop RPG

  • Take any two major subfactions of the Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40000. The Space Marines, the Inquisition, the Adeptus Mechanicus... any two. Chances are they're each working to undo something one of the others has done or is going to do. The Inquisition actually has Right Hand Versus Left Hand as departmental policy, and so much factional infighting occurs within that organization that they made an entire game about it. This is partly a pragmatic decision - you need to provide the opportunity for any two armies to be able to fight each other.
    • There is an example in the game's fiction of an incident early in the history of the Imperium, before Imperial Guard equipment and uniforms were regulated (well, closer to regulation) in which two armies of Guardsmen from different worlds encountered one another, each deciding that the other must be a hostile force. Several thousand were killed before the commanders on either side realised what was going on.
      • The Shira Calpurnia novels demonstrate this to almost depressing levels. The first novel alone demonstrates the minutia of political (and literal) conflict and vested interests between the Adeptus Arbites, Ministorum, Ecclesiarchy, Navy, Navigators, Astropaths, Sorroritas, and the Inquisition, all of whom are meant to work together. And this is just in one hive of one planet in one of innumerable sectors in the Imperium.
    • In fact, this is standard operating procedure for nearly everyone in 40k. The Eldar craftworlds distrust one another, the Chaos subfactions are, as the name implies, rather chaotic and opposed to each other, the Dark Eldar will rape and kill anything that moves, the two active Necron star-gods are distinctly opposed to each other, and Tyranid forces from different splinter fleets will attack and consume one another on sight to test out each others' biological enhancements. Orks get special mention for being almost biologically incapable of working together unless a powerful Warboss unites them on a WAAAAAAAAGH!. The only faction that seems somewhat united are the Tau, and they've got Commander Farsight off doing his thing.
      • With the Tyranid example, the winning side will then consume all of the bio-mass out there (from both sides), convert it into new warriors, and end up with a force of the same size of the two individual fleets combined but with only the more capable designs. This is an overall 'bad thing' for everyone else in the galaxy.
        • Often, it's not. This is because dealing with one enemy is much easier than dealing with two. For example, the Imperium regularly wipes out smaller Hive Fleets using genetically engineered viruses. Each Hive Fleet requires a different virus. Therefore one Hive Fleet is easier to deal with than two.
  • Half the fun of a good game of Paranoia. (The other half is the ensuing hilarity).
    • And it's not just the party...Friend Computer's programming has endured centuries of stress, disappointment, full-on disaster, Computer Phreak fiddling, the rivalries and politics of the Ultraviolet elite, and (naturally) paranoia, and as a result will frequently issue instructions that contradict themselves, such as issuing people with high explosives from R&D, ordering a field test, and announcing that failure to return them intact will be considered treason. (Naturally, this being Paranoia, it's quite likely the explosives will end up being used to kill off the rest of the party at some point).
  • In Exalted The Empress intentionally ran The Realm's government this way (both the missing information, and clashing agendas variations) in order that it would always need her management to function. This causes problems when she disappears.
    • The celestial bureaucracy has this problem in spades too. Several groups of gods aren't cooperating or sharing information out of spite, jealousy, to hide their own unlawful actions, or because they just don't know what they're doing and nobody's noticed yet. And the Sidereal Exalted (who are meant to be carrying out the will of Heaven) have magically rewritten history to avoid letting the rest of heaven know about any of their dodgy business.

Video Games

  • Fire Emblem 10 (Radiant Dawn) has a lot of this. two nations are bound by a blood pact which forces them to work for the bad guys and apparently they can't even let the good guys (their former war buddies) know about it, even if they converse on the battlefield. Depending on the exact nature of the blood pacts though, most of that bloodshed probably would have had to happen even with good communication.
  • Halo 2 had political machinations abound, leading to a power struggle between the Elites and the Brutes to be the honor guard (or the right hand...) of the Prophets. In the Expanded Universe, it is shown that various parties within the UNSC also do not agree with each other.
  • In Fatal Hearts, The two groups are old enemies, but they have essentially the same goal in the course of the story. However most endings have one or both groups being destroyed in the end. Only one actually has the two groups come together in a peace talk of sorts.
  • Team Fortress 2's War! Update has since revealed that both the RED and BLU team are controlled by the same Administrator. In fact, the whole War! was started just to prevent this fact from getting out.
  • Due to paranoia, many of the assassins in Hephaestus in Bioshock thought the others were snitches or rats. A notable example is Kyburz, one of the assassins, turning in Anya Andersdotter who was asking questions so she could get past Ryan's defences.
  • Technically, you and Zeeaire in Neverwinter Nights 2 have a common enemy, but you find yourself at cross-purposes with her soldiers until you kill her at the end of the first chapter and she gives you a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero speech.
    • Depending on your choices in the dialogue, this can be highly underserved as Zeeaire was an enormous Knight Templar who insisted you should be killed for getting a shard of their sword stuck in your body when it exploded, even if the player wants to give it back.
  • Basically, in 358/2 Days, Saix vs any Organization XIII member who was talented in anyway that could threaten his status as Xemnas' right hand man. And just who does he use to do this? His friend, Axel. He does this so much that Axel gives him a nice little warning:

 Axel: "Just remember: I helped you get to the top. Just don't fall on the way down."

  • In Alpha Protocol, one of your missions is to travel to Taipei to stop Omen Deng, a legendary Chinese super-spy, from assassinating Taiwanese President Ronald Sung. As it turns out, Deng is actually a Taiwanese Deep-Cover Agent and his real mission in Taiwan is to prevent you from assassinating President Sung. The two of you are so involved in foiling each other's plots that the real assassin is able to get to Sung almost literally under your noses. (He can still survive, but only if you were able to provide him with evidence of the plot beforehand, something that Deng evidently never thought to do.)

Web Comics

  • A lot of problems in Girl Genius are caused by the good and semi-good guys being unable to get together and compare notes and realize that they're on the same side.
    • On the up side, they've pointedly averted this when it comes to lead Agatha and love interest Gil, by spilling the whole weird story to Gil as soon as possible. But this trope is still in full force when it comes to the Baron Wulfenbach, Gil's father - who not only doesn't have the whole story on Agatha, but now has good reason to believe that Agatha is brainwashing his son into following her.
    • And a really good reason not to talk to her.
  • Oglaf (warning, comic in general is NSFW) had a case where some shapeshifters infiltrate a royal court to assassinate the king. Turns out the king had been replaced by another shapeshifter. One of the assassins might have known.
  • In Cheer, two different attempts to ruin Alex's speech for class president end up canceling each other out: Tamara replaces her speech with utter nonsense and throws Alex's real speech in the trash, while Sharon steals the paper she thinks is Alex's speech and replaces it with "some paper she found in the trash".

Western Animation

  • An old Scrooge McDuck story, where the entire plotline focuses on him fiercely competing with another company in some specific area (ultimately, the object was unimportant), spending millions on R&D and commercials in an attempt to increase his market-shares, and yet, the competitor kept coming out ahead. Finally, just when he's collapsing in tears, one of his sub-managers comes in to deliver good news: One of the corporations he owns has delivered a smashing financial report, having seized most of the market... in the same equipment, of course. Meaning he's wasted millions competing with himself.
  • The Kids Next Door are having a cereal party. (The "bowl": The Grand Canyon!) Toilenator wants to be a respected villain, so he flushes the cereal, killing the party... and Mr. Boss' plan to attack them at said party. Whoops!
    • "Operation E.N.G.L.A.N.D" revolves around Nigel running from a group of kids who are trying to steal a parcel that he's supposed to deliver to the British KND, at the end of the episode the kids manage to catch up to him and angrily explain that they are the British KND.

Truth in Television

  • This is sometimes given as the reason for Nazi Germany not using/developing further the technology that it invented.
    • Generally, in Nazi Germany, it wasn't normally the case of not knowing what the others were doing, but more of each department (or leader) wanting to develop it independently and not share any credit with anyone else.
    • Since Adolf Hitler didn't show a great deal of interest in the day-to-day running of his government, his top ministers engaged in what they called "Working Towards the Fuehrer", where they would try to formulate policy based on his vague directives and ranting speeches. This worked out about as well as you can imagine. On the other hand, when Hitler did get personally involved he often made things even worse.
    • It also really didn't help that a good portion of the German scientists that were experts in the field were of the "Undesirables" and had either fled the country, or ended up dead.
    • As a contrast, apparently the Army wanted the Manhattan Project tightly compartmentalised, but Robert Oppenheimer insisted that science didn't work well that way.
      • The Manhattan Project WAS highly compartmentalized, it's just that it got so big (larger than most European Government ministries and some European Goverments) that the compartments by necessity had to be pretty big too.
    • Also on the theme of Nazi Germany, there were several intelligence agencies - each run by a different high-ranking Nazi Party official - in direct competition receiving the same information. Hitler's eugenic policies as applied to the German intelligence community didn't end well, suffice to say.
      • The Abwehr was run by one Admiral Canaris, a Navy man and not a Nazi official. As it happens he was actually on good terms with Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SD (the intelligence arm of the SS). Though that friendship turned sour as Canaris was actually a leading figure in the Resistance, whilst Heydrich was quite loyal to the Nazi ideology, and as they started to really appreciate each other's natures each man moved to bring the other down. The Abwehr differs from the other Nazi examples in that it sought to actively undermine the Nazi effort, and probably played a role in Heydrich's assassination, but was not averse to co-operating with other agencies. It just so happens that these agencies were usually British.
  • 9/11 might have been prevented if the CIA and FBI and other agencies communicated with each other about the hijackers. But they distrusted and disliked each other.
    • As a rule, pretty much all American federal organizations seem to suffer from a massive inter-agency distrust and rivalry. Then there's the whole inter-branch issues between the different branches of the military.
    • Also usually issues of strict rules on who can do what. The CIA may figure out who the Russians have as a spy in a meeting in Vienna, but have to work with the FBI to do anything. The firewalls between them to prevent abuse of powers mean often the FBI wasn't told what they needed to know.
    • There's also the fact that both the CIA (Aldrich Ames) and FBI (Robert Hanssen) had been infiltrated by high-level Russian spies in the last decade. Hanssen was arrested in February 2001, and so the CIA would have been even more cautious about trading confidential information at the critical time.
      • During the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Army, Navy, and Air Force each wanted to take the lead on getting the hostages out of Iran, so that none of them could hog all the glory. So they came up with a compromise plan. The result? Catastrophic failure. Afterward, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was created out of the special operations branches of all three services. The Marine Corps followed suit... eventually.
  • Practically standard operating procedure for large IT corporations:
    • While Apple Computer provides dozens of instances of this, the classic example is the near-simultaneous barrage of the competing Apple ///, Lisa, Macintosh and IIGS platforms, all developed alongside each other by different feuding kingdoms within the company.
      • Not exactly: the Mac team was specifically told by the Steve Jobs to make their final product a kind of Lisa-lite after Jobs' visit to PARC (initial prototypes were nothing like that), and he also strongly influenced Lisa design in the same direction, so there was at least some unifying power. Unfortunately, Jobs was heavily involved in the internal struggle with John Sculley, then-Apple CEO, which he lost, and it all went downhill from there.
      • Just in the described period it lead to the Macintosh XL debacle, when Apple tried to sell then already underpowered and overpriced Lisa as a upmarket version of Macintosh and failed, and their killing IIGS simply because it was seen as cannibalizing Mac's market share: they were similar enough in performance and usability, but GS was sold at significantly lower profit margin. Apple /// plainly sucked though.
    • Various parts of Sega's American and Japanese divisions all tried to launch an entire solar system of extraterrestrially codenamed products (CD, 32X, Saturn, etc… Plus numerous other, often incompatible, combinations thereof). The resulting collision landed with a dull thud in the marketplace and was largely responsible for obliterating Sega as a hardware manufacturer.
      • This was also part of the reason behind Sonic X-Treme becoming Vaporware; the team behind the game was split in two and given different parts of the game to develop, with no communication between them. By time Sega of Japan representatives came to check up on progress, the two parts of the game had been taken in wildly different directions.
    • One of the most interesting cases of this in history was the background maneuvering in the Napster civil suit: Sony, manufacturer of computer products, saw Napster as a profitable way to get more people to use computers, and therefore funded much of their legal defense. However! Sony, entertainment and intellectual property owner, saw Napster as stealing their products through Digital Piracy, and therefore also funded most of the suit! Sony has been described not only as a feudal kingdom, but as "four separate companies, without a word to say to each other".
      • This is also evidenced by some Sony DVD players, where it's possible to disable their region coding, and user's manuals actually tell users how to do it. Electronic manufacturer division greatly profits from the sales of the DVD players, which are boosted by movies availability, but IP owner division loves to wring the last coin from the watchers, which is more easily done by such things as a regional-specific prices and release dates, hence the regional codes. The disabling manual appears to be a some sort of an uneasy compromise.
    • Nokia. The infighting of Symbian group and Mee Go group, and then Stephen Elop came, apparently without leaving Microsoft paycheck. Official statement? "Windows Phone 7 is our way forward and we won't port Qt to it. But we are still developing Qt."
  • Nearly every instance of friendly fire in military history. It's all too easy to mistake a friendly unit for an enemy under bad conditions.
  • Depending on which era of American military history you're studying, the branch rivalries will either equal (semi)friendly competition or this trope, complete with withheld information that ends up killing troops and fierce fighting over funding.
    • One quote by Curtis LeMay, Air Force general. "The Soviets are our opponents, the Navy is our enemy."
    • The concept of "Jointness" is designed to try to reduce the branch rivalries. Its success is varied. At budget time, you can pretty much bet each service will receive the same amount of money, regardless of need. And the US Marines always get special treatment, as they really push the "we are Marines" more than anything.
    • And some countries, like Canada, tried to solve the problem by simply amalgamating all three branches into one unified Force with an overarching command structure.
  • This one's often cited as one problem (of many, to be fair) in the ongoing GM bankruptcy drama. Eight divisions, each with separate dealer networks, separate bureaucracies right up to very high-level management, all trying to push towards building the same cars for the same customers. Worse yet, they often build exactly the same car with a different name, selling them at separately-owned dealerships in a city too small for the coverage, and have the dealerships spend thousands per car competing with each other to sell the same car to the same person.
  • A literal example of this trope is people who have their corpus callosum severed. It's possible for someone to be buttoning up their jacket with one hand while the other hand is unbuttoning it.
  • This is a very important issue to look out for in the computer science industry, as there are often many individuals/groups contributing to a single project but not actually working together and great pains must be taken to ensure all their code will work together smoothly.
  • Mao Ze Dong often deliberately encouraged this among key players in the Chinese Communist Party (withholding critical information, being deliberately ambiguous, or feeding them outright lies), so that none of them could gain enough traction to challenge his power or discredit him after his death. Even more cunningly, he often permitted his wife or his really trusted lieutenants to speak for him, so that he could maintain some semblance of plausible deniability.
  • The Raj and The Men of Downing Street were almost two governments. This messed up foreign policy quite a bit; several times an allied prince could not tell what it was exactly that the British were doing because they had two foreign policies going on. This could lead to suspicions of treachery in cases where only red tape was to blame.
  • "CBS sends a YouTube takedown to itself". The title tells it all.
  • Sony Entertainment shuts down Beyonce's official YouTube site.
  • Music Matters apparently managed to vigilantly slap down... their own ads on Google Reader.
  • It is generally a bad idea to be in competition with yourself, resources are needed to maintain an edge in an aggressive market. Those resources have a hard enough time fighting against genuine competitors and maintaining competition against yourself doubles those resources. The only way to make even is by dominating a given market. Say there are three restaurants on a given intersection, all other things being equal those restaurants will acquire 33 percent of that market. If the parent company of one business was to open another branch in the open spot on the intersection it would reduce the market share of the other businesses from 33 percent to 25 percent, including the one they already own. The big difference is that the parent company now controls 50 percent of that market when before they only controlled 33 percent with the one business there. It ends up doing well for the parent company but it hurts the sub-franchise.
  • A recent government regulation on the US banking industry is designed to prevent this. The Loss Mitigation department (the guys trying to help you keep your house) would often be in a race with the foreclosure department to see who could get their paperwork through first.