Broken Windows

The broken windows theory of policing suggests that when police target small crimes like “vandalism, public drinking, and fare evasion,” and reduce visible signs of “crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder” they reduce the likelihood of further and worse crime.

This can certainly be taken too far, as in “stop-and-frisk” policies, if those are examples of broken windows policing, as some suggest.

When applied to a team you’re leading, broken windows policing looks like: making sure uniforms are still sharp and worn properly, office common spaces are kept tidy, individuals are shown respect in each interaction, promises are kept, report and presentation standards are being met, and people generally meet the requirements and standards of each of their duties.

Watch for Broken Windows

It’s easy to forget why the small things matter. So often, we invent, raise up, and perpetuate new small things that really don’t matter. However, there are a set of standards we are each supposed to be required to maintain, either by order, regulation, or law.

Those true requirements are the broken windows I need to watch for. The purpose, which I should not forget, is to maintain a lower probability of more serious problems in the unit.

Mission Qualified

Commanders of operational units maintain their flying qualification. Most units in the Air Force aren’t flying units, but all have some mission they’re responsible for.

Remain Qualified on your Mission System

Once a quarter I should spend a day making sure I’m up to speed on the mission my folks are doing, and if possible I should get some practice actually doing it. At the least I should sit alongside folks as they execute the mission.

It’s important to understand what your folks are doing each day, to understand what problems they face, and to ask of them only things you’d be willing to do yourself. What better way to do that then to sit beside them and work. The social benefit is also easy to realize with this technique.

Remain Qualified on your Mission System

This needs to be time set aside on the schedule, that doesn’t get pushed around by meetings, that doesn’t get interrupted… This is mission qualification time, and it needs to be a priority.

Things I Hope I Remember – Be Deliberate

Be deliberate.

When the feeling in my organization is just a little… off; when someone reacts to my words in a way that I didn’t expect; when someone doesn’t come through with that task they said they’d finish; when my organization isn’t cutting it by some metric; when I let someone down; when I get any negative feedback; when I need to give any negative feedback.

Be deliberate.

Do some research about how other folks have handled the situation. If this is a large issue, there may be a relevant book. Find multiple points of view if possible. Read about how well others’ attempts at similar issues have succeeded or failed.

Then, be deliberate about the action you take.

The challenge may be to detect the situations where this is truly called for. Detecting the situations that require serious thought, or are signifiers of a larger issue. The situations that aren’t a one-off, but are actually tied together with multiple other issues.