According to the “broken windows” theory of social science, addressing small concerns (like broken windows) that matter to individuals eventually produces major improvements in the overall sense of community and belonging, which in turn fuels a more committed, dedicated group. This theory was instrumental in rebuilding parts of Harlem, the South Bronx and other devastated areas.
In this difficult economic climate, there is a great temptation to do the reverse: delay until a better financial day fixing the broken windows that litter our organizational landscapes. Why not save the money for the bare necessities? Why not focus on growing business or collecting revenues, which have clear connections to the (ever-diminishing) bottom line?
While firms are laying off associates, reducing their non-equity troops, halving bonuses and freezing salaries, they would be advised to make sure that they are not neglecting the small things that make a firm a good place to come to work every day–courtesy, interest in each lawyer’s work, willingness to spend time training, providing feedback, and whatever other individual strengths your firm prides itself on. Do the simple, doable things that make your lawyers feel someone is listening and responding: adjust heat or air-conditioning levels, extend night staff hours, upgrade the coffee. Small steps will make the difference in whether your lawyers have a sense of devastation or rebuilding.