On March 18, Richard Sheridan of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy, Inc. How We Built a Workplace People Love delivered an amazing presentation at the Novi, MI Civic Center. Menlo is a true ‘Made in Michigan’ success story as the co-founder was born and raised in Romeo, Michigan and his unique software design and development company is located in Ann Arbor.
Having personally spent nearly two decades trying to comprehend software engineer-speak in a variety of interactive marketing and project management roles, I was blown away by this articulate ‘Geek’s’ story of glory. Sheridan started Menlo Innovations in 2009 after the tech bust. The company designs and builds custom software with unconventional methods. Thousands tour the headquarters annually to observe this powerhouse’s core practices—High-Tech Anthropology®, paired programming, and working in an open and collaborative environment.
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Jettison formalities– Sheridan –CEO and Chief Storyteller, turned formalities upside-down in order to end human suffering at work. When describing his transition between workplaces prior to co-founding Menlo, he likened it to, “Getting a lot of stuff started, but nothing done in chaotic environments (and moving) to the land of never getting started,” due to bureaucracy.
Menlo’s mission as an organization is to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology™. In theory, this sounds beautiful. In most applications, it seems impossible, however there is no human suffering at Menlo Innovations. No meetings nor need to login from home in the evenings or on weekends—alas the 40 hour work-week is standard at Menlo. No Program Management Office requiring loads of project specifications and Gantt charts in three-ring-binders simply to evaluate the viability of a project before its approval and budget allocation. No formal interviewing, checking email while on vacation, and other banes of human existence.
Open up– Sheridan implores agents of change to, “Tear down the walls,” meaning to literally break-down the walls of cubicle nation and also figuratively by eliminating divisions in labor and organizational hierarchy. Cross-departmental communication is not an issue because everyone sits across from each other and is encouraged to communicate openly. Many companies invest in building an open workplace, however Sheridan takes it a step further stating, “Don’t just build an open workplace. Fit the workplace to the culture.”
Sheridan puts Dale Carnegie’s Principle #17– ‘Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view,’ to work. Coupling team members and rotating them weekly enables all employees to learn from each other’s experience and gain new perspectives. It also fosters creativity and ignites ‘AHA!’ moments.
Yield often– Sheridan implores employees to present new ideas across the board—from extreme programming to forgoing project management software and opting for project-specific grids of sticky notes so everyone is literally ‘on the same page.’ If employees want to rearrange the workspace, they simply do it. Babies and dogs are welcome—another testament to this unconventional yet highly joyful workplace.