Broken Windows

by Jack Warren

Jack W 3While running the other day, I made my usual pit stop at Uptown Station to get a drink of water and catch my breath. Upon entering, I noticed that for at least the fifth day in a row, the monitor displaying the Amtrak arrivals and departures was not functioning properly, but only displaying the Amtrak logo.

Of course, the reason for the monitor malfunction is unknown to me – and there may be a very legitmate reason for why it’s not working. It did bring to mind, however, an issue that is the downfall of many a person, organization, neighborhood, and city. It was called the Broken Windows Theory in the 70’s and 80’s – famously enacted into policy by then New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Stated simply, the Broken Windows Theory asserts: Take care of the little things (broken windows) and the bigger things will more likely stay put or fall in line.

In my own life this theory could better be named the Old Truck Theory. That is, when the door lock breaks and I fix it, it is less likely that I’ll overlook the next broken item – like the window motor – and bigger items as they come up. Given my propensity to drive old trucks, I’m more likely to keep a nicer truck by addressing issues as they arise.

Within your team or organization, you’re likely to have little things break nearly every day. Addressing these little failures, breakages, troubles, infractions, misses, or errors as they arise will make it more likely that you’ll avoid the larger issues. You see, we as human beings have the incredible capacity to compartmentalize, defer, or altogether ignore the addressing of a problem. Once that happens, we continue to overlook the next series of issues more easily. After a while, we’ve become almost totally insensitive to issues that are growing in frequency and scope.

In my home town of Gary, Indiana, it started off as a few broken windows, cracked sidewalks, dead shrubbery, and malfunctioning streetlights. It’s now deteriorated to the point of resembling a war torn, third world country.

What do you want your program to look like in five years? Ten years? If you expect big things, free from major issues, then address the small issues now. And just like my truck’s door lock, there’s no need to replace the whole door when replacing the lock itself will do. Make sure the solution is commensurate with the problem. And be consistent. Taking care of these little issues now will lead to less grief down the road and build a platform for greater success.

Jack Warren is the host and editor of Top Coach Baseball, the owner of Cornbelt Sports, and a speaker and career coach for athletic coaches. More information can be found at

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