Destroying Teams One Broken Window At A TimeFiled Under Human Factors
Even good teams are susceptible to degrading into undesciplined cowboy coders – and it all starts with a single broken window.
What I mean by a “single broken window” is in reference to the Broken Window Synodrome which states:
If a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. . . . One unrepaired window is a signal that no one cares, so breaking more windows costs nothing. . . . Untended property becomes fair game for people out for fun or plunder.
If disorder goes unchecked, a vicious cycle begins. First, it kindles a fear of crime among residents, who respond by staying behind locked doors. Their involvement in the neighborhood declines…they cease to exercise social regulation over little things like litter on the street, loitering strangers, or truant schoolchildren. When law-abiding eyes stop watching the streets, the social order breaks down and criminals move in.
Understanding that such a vicious cycle exists is important in creating a higher level of discipline and ownership in your current projects. Teams who are not vigilant about immediately fixing broken unit tests or builds, are in a sense, creating a downward spiral within the project. Team members who witness a single blatant act of project vandalism will undoubtedly give into the lazy human nature and retaliate with the common quote, “Well if he isn’t going to do that, than neither am I…”. The sprial begins…
You can never execute and deliver like a disciplined team if you are not disciplined enough to immediately fix the glaring problems. Don’t live with broken windows as having the will power to keep your house in order is the easiest win in the disciplined team game. If you allow your windows to stay broken you may just lose the house and neighborhood.