NewWork – Lipstick on a pig?


In last week’s treasure I shared Tom’s article about happiness. Tom mentions unlimited vacations and other perks that just mask work that sucks. When thinking further about it, I noticed that many NewWork topics can be lipstick on a pig. This is an English phrase for dressing something up. Today I would like to highlight three „hot“ NewWork topics  and challenge if they really help you improve value creation or are just lipstick on a pig. I truly believe we don’t need more lipstick on pigs (=businesses), but rather „animal welfare“.

Remote work

You might be surprised that I bring this up. I’m a big advocate of remote work and featured the benefits of remote work in What has remote working to do with ski touring?.  Although Yahoo and IBM are stopping their remote working policies, I see many companies who are starting to offer more flexibility on work time and location. Asking for the reasons you often hear: „We want to stay competitive as an employer“ or „This is what our Generation Y employees want.“ Please challenge yourself. What is the true „customer“ problem you are trying to solve?

  • You want to enable employees to solve a work challenge uninterrupted and in a quiet environment? What does your remote working policy say? Should people always be available on their phone?
  • You offer flexibility in office hours to allow people fulfill their duties as parents. What if part time would be a better solution to their problem? Too much flexibility?
  • What if one of your employees regularly works out of a co-working space and solves his challenges with co-workers from other industries? Is it ok or violates confidentiality policies?

In Germany we have a phrase that says: „Wasch mich, aber mach mich nicht nass“. It roughly translates to „You can’t have the cake and eat it“. If you really want to solve the true problem, it can be painful for you. If you don’t feel comfortable to go the full route, it might be only lipstick on a pig.


How often have you heard this? „We are now doing Agile too“. There’s a ton of methods and frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, LeSS and SAFe. Millions of dollars are spent on training, rollouts and consultants. Why did you decide to do Agile? Did your CEO/CTO/COO/… hear how <<insert your favorite role model here>> got successful by using this? „They are so much faster now. And by the way reduced their R&D spent by 30%.“ But do you really know what problem you are trying to solve?

  • Do you do Agile to shorten your product development cycle times? How are your people loaded? I guess 100%. Because we don’t want them to idle, correct? Have you ever been stuck in traffic on a congested highway?
  • Do you do Agile to increase cross-functional collaboration and break down silos? How do you measure performance? Do all have individual goals linked to an individual bonus?
  • Do you do Agile to have more transparency into project progress? How does project reporting work today? Management meetings and people get blamed for failure in execution?

I’m not saying the principles of the Agile manifesto are not valuable and the different tools can’t help you. But at the end they are still a tool and can just be lipstick on a pig. Or as they say in the Agile world – a cargo cult.


Doing a little bit of yoga or meditation throughout the day? Can’t be wrong, right? So why are you doing it?

  • To increase focus? Great, but wait a minute. What did I say about the congested highway? And who says „Come on guys, we only need to work a little bit harder“?
  • To stay calmer under stress? Oh that makes certainly sense. Where does the stress come from? From working just a little bit harder on things that don’t add much value? Or maybe from anxiety of doing something wrong?
  • To be more thoughtful to your co-workers? I like the perspective of greater harmony at work. But the individual bonus is better yours, ok? 😉

Again, I don’t deny the value of mindfulness. However, in some cases it feels like a painkiller to me. You take it to heal the hangover after a hard party night. Maybe better to just drink less?

Over to you

What do you think now?

  • The pig never will change, so I’m glad there’s at least some lipstick?
  • These methods and tools (the lipstick) are good, because they help uncover the true rootcause?
  • You know some other „lipstick“ from your business? I’m curious to learn other types of lipstick.
  • Stop bashing pigs!? 🙂
Let me know in the comments or via social media.
If you like stories about pigs with lipstick, pirates or just inspiration for your business life follow this blog or me on my social media channels. Also feel free to share with a friend, a peer or your followers on social media – for „animal welfare“ in business!


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