Bring back discipline in your team, relationships, work, life with Broken Window theory
Are you a creative and super productive person who finds it hard to delegate your work and motivate people to work for you or perhaps get so frustrated by the lack of discipline in your team? Even if all your hires, team mates love and respect you, no one seems to give their 100% and you find yourself helpless and totally loss of control of the things? Perhaps you are having to do the jobs for which you have recruited people? This may happen at any hierarchy or facade of an organization, but will be observed mostly by people who are creative like coders, designers.
In your personal life you may witness this disorder when you may suddenly discover that you are reacting angrily too many times to too many people. Tracing back you may find that few or some may perhaps be pulling out some jokes at your expense or everyday there is a traffic jam at certain points where too many people are shouting or may be a very small thing like a new bar in your way to office where you are witnessing drunk people in the first hours of morning.
You may have witnessed the lack of efficiency and casual approach in many Indian government offices. You you look around carefully, you will see pan spitted red mark on the walls. That is the broken window of the disorder in the office.
Solution: Theoretical base
Fix this disorder with “Broken Window Theory”. This is more commonly used in criminology and was brainchild of Criminologist James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. According to this theory “Crime is inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no on is in charge. Soon more windows will be broken and the sense of anarchy will be spread from the building to the street it is facing, sending a signal that anything goes.
Identifying the problem
When you come to office and see one of the visible desks of your colleague is in mess or tables are spread everywhere or chairs are all round the places or something as simple as some pieces of folded waste papers are outside bin, that is what the broken window is! Take notice of the smallest of the things that pinches you. If you see that someone is not reporting in time repeatedly or someone is not filing the progress report, do believe me that it is one broken window.
My personal experience of using the solution
Back in 2012 and 2013 I used to work with many students for their project. Often they would have a timing where they would have to come and work with me. Many a times a student if free would come at his free time and say, I will wait and if you are free will work with you. It hardly took any time for this to go completely out of control. I used to work in 50+ projects at any given time including several prototypes from industries. There would be no control on my appointments, people would come, wait, and I would be under immense stress to keep my cool, work with them and finish the tasks. When I tried to fix it by saying “Strictly there will be no meeting outside the time window given to you”, still disorder will persist. The situation at our office will become anarchic, and my stress level will be always high. Many a times a doctor may relate to this situation.
I then did a simple adjustment. I decided that I would plan for an entire month instead of bi-weekly plan. I will chalk out when are the dates I would be working with which students on which projects and what part of the projects. Used Google calendar to schedule all the meetings. The appointments and project planning would be sent out in advance. There would be no disorder in the way we will plan and execute.
Initially it was very nerve breaking for me because often in projects you can not accurately estimate the time it would take to code or explain or work with the student etc. But, as the adaptation started, there would be no crowd outside my cabin, client’s representatives as well as students would come at their time. Those who wanted to come and sit to see if I was free on a non-scheduled day or time would not be entertained, even if I had a free slot. Slowly my team at office started sending those back who were 2 hours earlier than their schedule. As I would also have to have my team meetings and interacting with new clients, we would keep a time for that also, everyday.
Since 2015 to 2017 I used this method and I can not explain the way it has benefited the company, me personally and many of my students and industrial clients. It was only fixing one broken window of “Unplanned appointment timings”. In 2015 we had a 480% jump on the revenue from previous year and in 2016 it was another 260% over the previous year.
Global Use of the theory
This theory gained people’s attention not only in crime but also other aspects of life and businesses after it’s successful use in one of the history’s best crime control drive. In 1980s New York witnessed the worst crime rate of all time peaking to about 6000 murders and like incidents a year. But the heart of the city the Subway system was epicenter of this crime, The cars in the subways will be having Graffitis inside and outside, out be stinky, would have bad smells, without heater and air conditions the cars will be very cold in winter and hot in summer. This will often be the hub of crimes from muggers to robbers. It went so out of control that nobody will either dare to complain or would bother to complain. Apparently the increase of drug selling around the time was blamed for this mess. The subway would lose passengers, the ones that remained wouldn’t bother to buy tickets.
Mr. Kelling, the criminologist who formed the theory was appointed as the consultant to fix this mess. In 1984 a multi billion dollar project was started by the authority under the supervision of a man named David Gunn.
He figured out that the broken window here was the graffiti in the trains. They give out a signal that everything goes. The victims would be already intimidated by the environment and the perpetrators of the Crime would be more confident of not being reported or get caught.
When the Graffiti clean up project started in 1984, everyone from the other consultants to eminent personnel in New York would argue that at a time when drug dealing and crime was of major concern, wasting huge money, resource and time on trivial things like Graffiti showed lack of understanding of the problem by the authorities.
However, Gunn and Kelling knew what they were doing and achieved an amazing feat of reclaiming all the cars of all the trains by 1990. In six years the clean and neat cab was achieved followed by another four years of rigorous enforcement of law and order by subway police. People will be sent to jail first for not so “extreme crime” like peeing, spitting on nearby areas of the subway stations to peeping into someone in the cars or in the stations. Finally, not only the subway became literally crime free but the crime rate of entire New York city as back to halt. Other problems like drug distribution and alike problems were also gotten hold of and were fixed.
At the end the simple enforcement of order on the Graffiti Artists(the anarchists) entire system was cleaned.
How to realistically use the theory and put it into the practice
Disorder and anarchy are viruses and spread like an epidemic. It starts as small and then spreads to other areas of the business and life. If you find the things not working the way they should and people are not working the way they should then it is time for you to sit, think through the smallest of the things that would lead to this situation. Fix it. Be religious about this fix. If you think that coming late is not allowed, then enforce it with no exception. Fire people if needed to set an example that if you do not follow the order, you are not needed in the team. Initially it will be tough and you will find it hard to put in practice. From my experience of using the theory I can tell you that it works and doesn’t take much to bring things to order and get the team doing much better than earlier.
When you will enforce order to concerned people and their behaviors would require a change, they would complain, they would try everything to not allow you to enforce the order. Stick to your belief, be strong and purposeful. The phase of opposition would be short lived when the dis-tractors would be dealt strictly.
You can very well use it in every aspect of your life, with partner, friends, child. Fix the smallest disorder that you had overlooked and it will change the whole game. Oh and yes, do not get Compulsive Obsessive Disorder in ordering the things. Good Luck.