Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cleaned up New York City by understanding the broken window theory. The theory suggests each problem that goes unattended in a given environment affects people’s attitude toward that environment and leads to more problems (see Ivy Wigmore).

In other words, a building with broken windows is likely to attract crime. A street filled with litter is likely to attract more litter. And so on and so forth. It is a theory that holds true throughout municipal development and community planning, and it certainly applies to office/work environments, as well.

When we apply the broken window theory to corporate culture, we find “broken windows” everywhere. They affect our culture more than we know. Below are the most significant areas of our corporate culture we cannot afford to ignore. After all, environment drives culture, and culture drives success.

Any “Out of Order” Sign: Whether it’s a coffee maker or a copy-maker, seeing an “out of order” statement on any resource for more than a half-day sends a very clear message to the team: this resource isn’t that important. When that is understood, the value of our resources ostensibly plummets, and yields an amateurish atmosphere in the one place where people should feel that they have a technological advantage: their place of work. Suggestion: if a resource is going to be out-of-order for more than four hours, remove it from view until it gets fixed. Pro tip: never rely on just one or even two printers for a workplace of more than a dozen. Not being able to print equals child’s play.

Room Temperature: Find out what room temperature your teammates find most comfortable through a democratic process: voting. Once that number is agreed upon–let’s say it’s 71 degrees–keep it at that temperature. All the time. No matter what. Does this sound trivial? It’s not.

When this “window” is “broken” (using the metaphor), people want to leave. Plain and simple. If the sun shining through the windows makes the temperature rise to 75, the air conditioning has to do its job and get it back to 71. Plain and simple. Few things are more ridiculous than seeing employees shiver or sweat in a place where they spend the majority of their lives because leadership is skimping on climate control.

Lighting: What’s the biggest difference between Target and Walmart? Whole Foods and off-brand grocery stores? Thriving workplaces and cubicle farms? Answer: lighting. If you’ve ever walked into a place and felt uneasy, it’s likely due to the lighting–you might never even have thought of it like that, but it’s vital for climate control.

According to Unicamp, “Good lighting can decrease errors by 30-60 % as well as decrease eye-strain and headaches, nausea, and neck pain which accompany eyestrain. Comfortable lighting allows workers to concentrate better on their work which increases productivity.”

Corporate leaders should hire a lighting expert and pay him/her whatever it takes to get the environment lighted properly.

Internet & Intranet: The best Wing Commander I ever served with once said to me, “The Internet is slow…and we don’t do slow.”

She had a point: despite the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars spent on national defense, the Internet and Intranet Systems were sure to fail at least once per week.

Here’s the message dysfunctional technology sends to workers: your work can wait until later.

That’s not the message anyone should receive in any corporation. If your internet is managed internally, fire the person who keeps letting your organization down, and hire someone who can get it done. If the internet is managed externally, fire the person or company who keeps letting your organization down, and hire someone who can get it done. It’s 2018, and there should be no excuses for routine lapses in productivity as the result of something as elementary to modern function as Internet.

When windows are broken, it’s clear that nobody cares. These suggestions will help organizations ensure teammates understand how important their time and work are to leadership…and that it’s too important to skimp on the “little things.”


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