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We all know by now that ‘respect people’ is one and probably the most important principle of lean. ‘Respect people’ means different things to us. From one point of view respecting people means respecting who they are and what kind of knowledge they have. It is also taking all the best out of their behavioral patterns and skills in different grouping situations. Actually, we should always include ourselves in the picture and talk about us, not only them. After all, we all are part of some group or groups whose results depend on our knowledge and behavior in that certain situation.

My thesis ‘Understanding the types of people and the effects of group composition in collective development workshops in the real estate sector’ introduces five types of people in the real estate sector in Finland and what these types are made of. As a part of my work, we also get a small sneak peek into these types in Australia. Types are based on an individual's behavior in small groups in collective development projects and folk psychology is used as a frame to understand types and behavior.

Five Types of People

Recognized types are: 1) Opinionated speakers, 2) Empathetic leaders, 3) Active respondents, 4) Passive respondents, and 5) Listeners. Opinionated speakers have a lot of their own thoughts and ideas, and they talk a lot about them. Sometimes so much that they just take the room so that others keep quiet and stop focusing on the topic. Emphatic leaders take leadership and give group members’ possibilities to tell their ideas and thoughts by challenging them. Strong emphatic leaders have the ability to take the room back from strong opinionated speakers without making them feel bad. Active respondents ask questions and take part in the discussion mostly without someone asking them to do so. Active respondents hardly ever take leadership, but they can be said to lead by notes, since they mostly write things done and make sure every question has been answered. They will also support the emphatic leader. Passive respondents speak when they are asked to, and listeners most likely say nothing or at least very little. They are not always shy to speak, but just don’t know the topic well enough or their role is to observe.

Most of us are active respondents and ready to ask questions or tell ideas to develop or answer to the topic in-hand. Type of person is not forever stigma. It can change when the situation changes. Active respondents can become passive if there is a very strong opinionated speaker in a group or passive respondent or listener becomes active if the topic is their own expertise or the group has a good emphatic leader, who creates a good atmosphere within a group. With help of others, opinionated speakers can also be emphatic leaders and activate others.

If there are only opinionated speakers in a group, discussions might have zero value, since they often forget to take notes and do the documentation even when asked. The work gets done, but without documentation there is nothing to tell others or remember by. Listeners often get work done and also documentation if they have given a way or platform to do it.

During my interviews with my fellow researchers and when I was part of the different group meetings in Australia, I noticed that these same five types can be found from the other nationalities too, even though you would have thought Finns are quieter than for example Australians. Like my colleague said: “all these types are there, but portions might vary”. I believe this might also be the case in the United States and Great Britain or other parts of the world. Since these are not included in my thesis, I am more than happy to hear your opinion and discuss more about this topic with you.

Support Structures

Things do not just happen even if you have the greatest composition of different types of people. Support Structures as trust, communication and collaboration are needed to make these groups work together and get high-quality results. For example, the more you trust, deeper discussion you get, and people share their knowledge and experiences. Also, when things are communicated more openly, it is easier to be part of the discussion and we can feel ourselves and our thoughts are important. When results are created together, we are most likely to use them in our own work and work also stronger together.

How is this all related to lean?

I have a strong feeling that the more we understand each other’s behavior, the more we trust and the better results we get as a team. Respecting others comes naturally after that. Respecting others brings out good in us and makes us all want to do our very best. This makes our work results better and less waste occurs. Less waste means more value. So, believe it or not, we are in a positive circle here and very lean indeed.


Latvala M. (2019). Understanding the types of people and the effects of group composition in collective development workshops in the real estate sector. Available at:

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Marika is a Doctor of Science (Technology) working in the real estate and construction sector with interests in people behavior and well-being. She works as a development manager for Finnish Property Owners Rakli, which is an association in the real estate and construction sector in Finland. Her job is to develop processes and procedures for real estate owners and construction clients with a hint of humanity. One of the biggest topics in her work is lean and its principles.