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Pink and White: Agile & Engagement: An exploration of Daniel Pink and Chris White’s Teachings


In 2019, Chris White hosted a Ted Talk discussing “3 Ways To Create A Work Culture That Brings Out The Best In Employees”. He started his talk by making reference to Google and the walkouts that took place to raise awareness of the treatment of women within the workplace. He went on to explain that walkouts needn’t be a physical absence from the office: “in corporate speak we become disengaged, or actively disengaged”.


Engagement within the corporate world, in the eyes of Daniel Pink is when an employee finds their-self feeling like a valued member of the team, due to autonomy at work, mastery of their craft and skills or the feeling of purpose whilst doing their job. Feeling disengaged in this context means that committing to “protest[ing] quietly, sometimes even silently or subconsciously” could have a significant implication on the working environment, especially if it were to be en-masse.


Pink said that most companies in society nowadays “don’t want compliance, they want engagement”. It is easy enough to have a working environment where everything appears uniform and correct, roles are cookie-cutter and everyone is a cog in the machine, but, it is curious.


Amazon, is a household name; a company founded by Jeff Bezos, and renowned for its quick-turnaround ethos. Amazon, and their well-known Prime Membership Scheme provide a platform for thousands of people to shop from the convenience of their own homes, with the guarantee of almost immediate gratification, with delivery often occurring within three working days of an order being placed. This was a life-saver for many bored furloughed workers during the Covid19 Pandemic, unsure of what to do with their free time: something they may not have had on this scale for years!


But what about the workers? It isn’t uncommon to hear from people who have worked in the warehouses and depots explain that they felt disposable and almost robotic in their daily tasks, seldom straying from their designated section, on their feet in the same spot for hours at a time. Despite Amazon claiming on their own website that they employ 40,000 employees in the UK, and even more worldwide, it has been a struggle, in my experience, to find people who think highly of their time in the corporate machine.


Often after leaving, similarly to the report made by Irene Tung and Deborah Berkowitz on Nelp.org former employees of Amazon have expressed experiences with reference to “unsustainably fast productivity requirements resulting in injury and exhaustion.”. This is because warehouse work does not provide the same opportunities for communal engagement. How does one have autonomy when their role is collecting stock or pressing buttons? How do you master your skills when you are in such a role, and what do you feel is your purpose in this scenario? Of course, being an essential worker in an organisation during the pandemic, is and was significant and rewarding, but, what about in a world pre-covid? What about the world post-covid?


What White suggested during his Ted talk was that the best way to create a culture that brings out the best in a team were as follows: to unblock communication, be responsive and aim higher.


White said that in order to provide a workplace that allows a team to remain engaged “we need to continually invite people to speak up at work” this is “because making these invitations just a routine part of how we engage with each other in the workplace actually really important groundwork that is needed for those times when people have to speak up and have to be heard on issues that are hard for management to hear.” This means that, like in White’s example, sharing one’s opinions about the way that women were treated at Google, would subsequently reduce the amount of people becoming less motivated to work to their highest potential, as there was a channel to express these frustrations.


From these frustrations, there would have been the opportunity, as White said, to be responsive, and subsequently aim higher, do more. He encouraged his audience to go beyond addressing a simple problem and instead to elevate. The best way to create a place that employees feel like they can flourish, is to encourage them to engage: get your hands dirty. As Pink said, create ways that your employees feel like they have control over their working environment and pace, provide them with the tools to let them master their crafts and give them a reason to want to come to work. Inspire them. Give them that sense of purpose. Each employee is a person, a collection of experiences, and talents.


Just as Chris White said, “we are more than the sum of our resumes”.


Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), 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: arvind@theagileworks.com


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