Allowing small problems to escalate into big ones is simple. Just ignore the signs for long enough and the job is done. It takes far more energy to review regularly the key performance indicators you’ve established for each individual and yourself. But a small excursion caught early and corrected saves massive corrective resources later.
Take for example the manufacturing company with a small quality problem in one component, resulting in a test failure rate above the norm. You can just reject the components, especially if coming from an outside supplier, or you can get to the root of the problem by examining the cause and reengineering the process or product quickly, saving you and perhaps your supplier time and cost. Such a culture of quality engineering has an additional benefit in creating a higher bar for all to see, making the public statement that quality is a top priority.
The same careful management applies to virtually every person and process in the organization. If there are ways to measure successful output or execution, find them and use them regularly. If one person or department is not pulling its weight, others notice and if no action is taken, often others are discouraged because of the lack of management interest and control. The variant of “one bad apple” holds true in corporate cultures that to a degree entrepreneurial managers and young CEOs rarely credit – until a late correction is made and a collective sigh of relief can be heard company-wide.