If you have never heard about this theory don’t worry about that, here in this article we’re gonna talk about it in detail. The “Broken Window” is one of the most cited articles in criminology history; it was introduced in the early 1980s by social scientist James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. It was popularized in the 1990s by New York City police commissioner William Bratton and mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose policing policies were influenced by the theory.
The theory suggests that visible signs of crime, antisocial behavior and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. So in order to help to create an environment of order, policing methods should be focused on minor crimes such as vandalism, loitering, public drinking, jaywalking, and fare evasion. But now you must be wondering how is this related with design, software and other tech areas? Well as the theory suggests, this means that your environment has a huge impact on the decisions you or other people make in it. If you see a house with a lot of broken windows, you are much more likely to break another window and break into the house. Even though you might have no criminal intentions at all.
You just have to take a look at your projects to notice when the small tasks are postponed, this is a classic mistake. As a result the whole team eventually is going to feel less motivated to work on this project due to the disorder perception that every member has of the work. When your team is not paying enough attention to the details, the general perception is that things are out of control, that way eventually everyone stops caring about maintenance and progress of the project.
With that in mind if we think about this theory the solution is simple, take one or two days to fix all the “broken windows” in your project. Fix that small bug in your code, clean and organize your design file, document the progress of your project, fix all those details that seems small and unimportant. By fixing all your “broken windows” you and your whole team will be able to make good decisions again for the project. In essence when you fix your environment you simply change the way you react to it. Remember that if your environment is surrounded with bad behaviors this can be a tipping point to make it happen more often even when you’re not noticing.
And of course no one starts a project with the intent of making a bad job. At the beginning of every project, everyone follows the rules, applies the principles, makes good practices and more. And suddenly a “broken window” happens. This is totally normal. People always make mistakes, even the ones in senior roles, due to the high pressure to deliver on a specific deadline or just a lack of knowledge. Not all broken windows are mistakes, frequently requirements of the client change and we need to make changes on the project.
Remember if one window is broken and you schedule this for later, it is easier to tolerate the next broken window and the next.