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Cat Got Your Tongue, Or Is It Just Your Supervisor?

In their November 2020 appearance on Mark Graban’s podcast, Lean Blog Interviews, husband and wife duo, Mary and Tom Poppendieck discussed the nature of lean through the lens of software development. But, their words, as many do on these kinds of subjects, relate to the world of project or business management.

During the podcast, when asked to elaborate on the difference between lean practice and agile practice, Tom Poppendieck had the following to say: “Agile was basically a reaction, just like lean was a reaction to the um, ‘just doesn’t work’ experience in manufacturing, agile was a reaction to the heavy handed control activities in the 90s. The heavy handed process, the telling people what to do preventing them from exercising judgement and that was pretty much overcome in the 2000s.”

What struck me was his explanation that telling people what to was preventing these workers from exercising judgement. This idea had me thinking back to the thoughts of Chris White and Daniel Pink. Respectively, these two men said being engaged with your working environment is essential for implementing high-quality work, but, also, to sustain employee longevity. Nobody wants to be constantly actively recruiting for new staff for the same role. Prospective hires notice, and will often attribute the consistent recruitment process as an indicator that your company is not the best one to work for. This is not the first impression an organisation wishes to give off.

It is easy to say that you need to listen to your employees, their concerns during production, testing etc. but, if you are not working in an agile space, these voices may simply be white noise; you find yourself wanting to produce quick-turnarounds to remain competitive, and then, may find your reviews being cluttered with complaints about functions and ideas flagged during the product creation process. This is, unfortunately, not as uncommon as you may think. For example; a friend of mine; Jack* once suggested at work introducing recycling bins, and the idea was rejected due to several reasons, including the risk they may be filled with general waste. However, he noticed that young people in particular were approaching him and requesting to use his recycling bin for plastic bottles, and that a number of reviews noted that an organisation as large as the one he was working for at the time, likely contributed massively to outward pollution in the local area, and that people were disappointed that the company was not attempting to implement a recycling process to reduce this.

Working in an agile workplace allows your voice to be heard more often than not, leaders acknowledging that people that are closer to a project than they are, may have more detailed, or situational feedback which could improve the quality of a product or service within the industry.

For further reading about engagement within the workplace, and speaking up at work you can read our articles: Pink & White: Engagement At Work.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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