Broken Windows

Rudy Giuliani made the Broken Windows crime fighting theory famous, crediting it as one of the key policies he used to drastically reduce New Yoke City’s violent crime rate. In his 2002 book, “Leadership” Giuliani wrote:

‘Sweat the small stuff’ is the essence of the Broken Windows theory that I embraced to fight crime. The theory holds that a seemingly minor matter like broken windows in abandoned buildings leads directly to more serious deterioration of neighborhoods. Someone who wouldn’t normally throw a rock at an intact building is less reluctant to break a second window in a building that already has one broken. And someone emboldened by all the second broken windows may do even worse damage if he senses that no one is around to prevent lawlessness.

Part of my territory at work is geographically isolated, and managers visited this part of the area least due to the long drive. Small issues like lateness slowly began creeping into the team. The Broken Windows theory predicts that if an associate breaks a couple of small rules and no one addresses them, they might be emboldened to deviate in other ways. And that’s exactly what happened.

Most recently we found some major problems like sales decreases, margin erosion, and associate turnover. We even had someone steal from the company. I asked the individual who stole from us what we could have done to prevent his behavior. His answer was so perfect. We could have spent millions of dollars on consultants and not gotten a better answer. He told me, “pay better attention.”

During my brief career I’ve learned that sweating the small stuff will help the big stuff fall into place. If the managers do not pay attention, it is the managers’ fault when things go wrong. If we fail to repair the small broken windows in our work spaces, our whole work community could deteriorate to a slum. Employees need managers who pay attention to them.