Broken windows is a theory in criminology that suggests that if you let little things go they become bigger ones. The theory is based on the observation that the existence of broken windows in a neighbourhood frequently is found in association with other signs of general social fragmentation and disorder, such as property neglect, disrepair, abandoned cars, litter, and graffiti.
In the absence of a sense of community order and control regarding such signs or signals, there appears to be a tendency on the part of local residents to increasingly ignore or even tolerate lesser criminal acts, such as drug use and petty crime.
Essential Leadership Practice: Repairing Broken Windows
When it comes to team effectiveness, broken windows are behaviours or attitudes that are not appropriate and go against the team’s goals and values that are being ignored. A team’s broken windows are ignored because perhaps the leader and team members feel that they are “little” things compared to other priorities, or they hope that they will eventually go away if left alone, or because they do not know how to repair them.
A broken window in one team might be disrespectful behaviour, in another failure to follow through on commitments. Organizational broken windows take on many shapes but ignoring them leads to the same outcome. A broken window when ignored sets a low standard of behaviour which discourages committed team members and encourages others to behave as they choose rather than as would be best for the team and the patient. A couple of broken windows can be the beginning of a downhill slide if left unrepaired.
Steps for Repairing Broken Windows
The following steps walk you through a quick process for identifying and repairing broken windows that are impacting your team’s ability to perform at its best.
1. Share the broken windows theory with your team.
2. Invite your team to identify any broken windows they believe need to be repaired.
3. Ask your team to identify at least 2 broken windows that shoud be repaired first.
4. With your team, identify specific next steps for repairing the windows.
5. Revisit the team’s progress in 4 to 6 weeks. Ask: “What steps have we taken to repair the broken window of _______?”
6. Add the item “Repairing Broken Windows” to your team meeting agenda so that your team regularly identifies broken windows and takes steps to repair them.
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Until next time!
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Also published in LinkedIn and The HR Gazette