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Put The Tissues In The Drawer: An Observation On Out Of The Box Thinking In The Workplace


Before The Agile Works, I worked in the retail sector. When our receipt rolls would get jammed at work, we would have to call our supervisor to collect the blue tissue from our cupboard, so we could clean our machines of all of the gunk, and reattempt printing the receipt.



But, when we were busy, this would mean customers would be waiting for significant periods of time. In order to fix this one of my colleagues decided to fill every single desk


-side plastic drawer with several pieces of blue tissues, to save the time and improve efficiency. This became a standard practice in the workplace; colleagues adding the handing out blue tissue as part of the morning routine, while others made sure that the tills had the correct opening sum, and that every till had extra receipt rolls etc.


During Don Reinertsen’s talk with Adventures with Agile on YouTube: Second Generation Lean Product Development Flow, he refers to a quote by Dean. The quote was as


follows: If I see a technique that could make a difference to the process, I’ll try my best to apply it.


While I listened to the rest of his talk, I found myself thinking back to this quote.



Simon Sinek identified innovation as the solution to real problems. This can of course be interpreted as macrocosmic solutions; like the rollout of Covid19 vaccination


s in the pandemic, or a small, microcosmic solution to a problem, such as the one I described above. Just because the problem was contained to a room of cashiers, does not mean that it was not significant. It certainly made the lives of our supervisors significantly easier at the time; reducing the time they had to run between cashiers with blue tissue, and actually allowing them to rectify problems like computer system glitches, promotional discounts we were not allowed to authorise, refunds etc.


As established by Donald Norman, in his book, The Design of Everyday Things, design needs to be pleasing, but, needs to be fit for purpose so someone does not need to expend extra effort to achieve what the product is supposedly making easier. Conveni


ence sells. Inconvenience does not inspire brand loyalty.


What struck me when recalling the innovative practice in my previous workplace, was how, that one action, of putting some blue tissue in the drawers meant that colleagues were in a position where they did not need to inconvenience their supervisor as often,


instead, being able to produce tissue from their own work stations. It posed the question, why had nobody thought of this before? Henry Ford once said: Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them, and that really hit home when thinking back to this.


Although I was never a supervisor, I was able to observe how frantic they co


uld become during busy periods, rushing between several colleagues calling for assistance simultaneously, and it got me to wondering, why was it not standard practice to have multiple rolls of blue tissue in circulation between colleagues? Would it have hindered the appearance of our space, having copious rolls of tissue in circulation? Would the aesthetic decline have been as detrimental when compared to increased efficiency? Why was every desk not equipped with their own roll of tissue? Perhaps it was budget constraints, after all, providing each of the twelve tills with a roll of blue tissue, could amount to a greater volume of internal costs.




Sometimes, all you need is a bit of perspective, to realise the solution is not as daunting as it may have appeared, and for the duration of my time in that particular workplace, the blue tissue was always in the drawers. I believe that it likely remained a part of the work routine.


Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The A


gile 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 leade


rship'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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