The Broken Glass Theory: And What You Can Do About It


The Broken Glass Theory was introduced in 1982 by social scientists in Atlantic Monthly which says if there’s a broken window in a building, chances of breaking more glasses has a higher chance than in a building with no broken glasses. 
So as project managers, the goal is simple- fix things as soon as possible lest the rest of it gets broken too.
When you look from a team perspective, the goal is to ensure if you find something broken or out of order, address it immediately by having a one on one with the team member and seeing how you can help in the process.  The problem with not fixing the problem is that it will become a bigger problem when its gets too complicated to handle it and will create a furor in the team environment.


If you see the from organization culture point of view, not resolving or looking into the issues make it evident to the rest of the team that its okay to engage in these disruptive actions and management accepts it. This definitely send a wrong signal.

Address the trouble maker immediately and send the right message to your team, to ensure the process and work culture stays in place.

However, there is another research which shows that the Broken Glass Theory doesn’t work and the theory works because of dependencies because of some other action that took place.


Whether this reduces the crime rate or not (theory comes from criminal perspective), it definitely makes sense from the team handling. Leave a team with problems and it will only grow bigger and unmanageable.  

(Pic Courtesy: Google Images)


Agile Managers- what should you do?

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.”  -Lao Tzu

Simple things create the greatest impact. As Agile Managers, the goal is to ensure your team is groomed, mentored and ready to take up any challenges.

To do so, you also have to lead by example- you should be able to:

  • Inspire
  • Be supportive
  • Be empathetic
  • Be honest
  • Be objective

So, your focus is always to keep the team out of crisis so they can function at their optimum velocity.  Deming in his “14 action point guide” points at how one can get anyone out of the crisis mode. If you look at them, the main things to consider would be:

  • Creating constancy of purpose- it’s important during any time or during any transformation process to let your team know about the purpose and why what is happening. This avoids the most important confusion of team members being insecure, going through a loss of direction and not being comfortable with the change. 
  • Improve constantly- managers role is crucial here in keeping the theme of improvement going always. If you can inspire them in a one of a kind way, it has to be by dispersing the common message that every team member collectively has to improve. You can measure improve in various ways- by seeing team velocity, by seeing quality of the deliverable, seeing the team dynamics or seeing the happiness index of teams. 
  • Drive out fear- encourage people to express freely in your organization and team. Even if the feedback is negative- against the process, against the team or may be against you- it allows you to know the reality. You can only know how to respond to and what strategy to implement if you know the genuine problem. 
  • Remove barriers that that rob people of their pride to workmanship- inspiration for any work when intrinsic is way more productive than when its extrinsic. If you can find out what motivates them, what keeps them going, it’s just way easier to know their intrinsic motivation. I have worked with teams, who at some point got bored with the same kind of user stories in their backlog and wanted a change. In such situations just ask what they would like to work n, or what motivated them, One team wanted to take more risks at their work because they thought otherwise it gets boring; they did risk in one of the sprints against their committed stories and still finished really well.  The team member just find it motivating enough. 
  • Recognition for their efforts for some is very important- just by simply saying  a ”thank you” or recognizing them during daily stand ups is enough to keep them happy and it doesn't take a lot of time or money! This point actually came up in one of my happiness index surveys with a team and since then I have always tried to recognize members for their efforts, no matter how small they are! So, during retrospectives, we make a point that the team thanks other team members by simply writing n sticky notes about them and then we tack it in the cubicle walls. 
  • Put everyone to work- because transformation is everyone’s job; especially if you have adopted agile very recently. No one should feel that their part is for granted or not important. Keeping everyone involved is the most tricky part when going through transformation. And this is something only managers can do. You can work with your Agile consultant/coach on these scenarios, however you have to make the final call.  As a manager you have to let everyone now how they can be involved, contribute actively and help management make decisions.  
(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Scrum Gathering Pune



This post comes in a bit late I guess, mostly due to malfunctioning internet of my phone at the seminar and travelling next few days.

The Pune Scrum Gathering was bigger than I had expected, lots of people from all over the world and a location that was at grand as the event! 

The keynote speaker was someone I knew and had read his blog for years. To see Jurgen Appelo in person was nice and it was one of the best presentations in the 2 day event.

Most of my 2 days was spent with my colleagues, sometimes in the seminar, mostly just helping them out in the exhibition stall that was put up- just chatting up people who stopped by and answering different kind of questions.

By the way, I did manage to get an autograph from Jurgen Appelo, last one was from Elizabeth Harrin. I am still old fashioned that way!

The sessions have something for everyone- from real life case studies to new methodology to theories about latest way of using them in industries. So, whichever level you are in; you get to learn. Breakfast and lunch was good, so was the opportunity to network with hundreds of others and learn from them.

I enjoyed most of the sessions I could attend, some more than the others like that of Nancy Sharma.  She brought n the behavioral traits required in an agile team and unlike others she handled questions during the presentation, went back to it with aplomb and brought in amazing insights form the real world on how to encourage the team culture in an organization, how to handle loners and naysayers along with the so called heroes.

While this was my first visit to Pune, I loved the city and will return definitely. I enjoyed meeting up a friend over an Italian dinner after 10 years, meeting his wife for the first time and talking late into the night listening to stories on how they had met. The next day evening was spent with colleagues and client over an extended dinner.


Here are more pictures from the semnar in case you are interested.