Douglas McGregor presented his theory Y by stated this belief: “work can be as natural as play and rest.” Richard Sheridan, co-founder, and CEO of Menlo Innovations, explains that the Joy, he is talking about in his book Joy, Inc. is this kind of joy.

Joy, Inc. is the best advocacy for “pairing” I read so far. By pairing, I mean two persons working at the same desk with the same computer. I would love to say that Pair Programming popularized the approach in other fields. However, the efficiency of this shortest learning loop that is pair programming is not yet as popular as it should be. The parallel with pairing in surgery is interesting to re-use.

Richard Sheridan presents the practices in place at Menlo. Agile practitioners would indeed recognize some of them, or discover another to implement the same values and principles. To give some examples:

  • No frontier in the space, and easily reconfigurable working space to enable the persons to bring their desk together to work on the same project
  • Stand up with the whole company every day at 10 (this means 70 person circle…)
  • Walkies, a ritual to break the afternoon, have the entire company walk together
  • Show & Tell, the Sprint review, in an opposite way, the customer show to the team what have been done during the week
  • Interviewing, Hiring and Onboarding process that shows the culture and help both parties to check if they are compliant. There’s no referral system at Menlo
  • Deep understanding of user’s goals, persona’s use… before we were speaking about them in software, with a funny job title: high tech anthropologist
  • Make mistakes faster as a way of growing people and business
  • Babies, children at the office, in the office space

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Lao Tzu

  • A culture that grows leaders not bosses
  • Planning with story cards proportional to the effort (and space for weeks proportional to the capacity)
  • Color to differentiate maintenance and new products
  • Test-driven development
  • Delivering working software every week to the client
  • Colocated teams only, no technology will replace the fact of being there
  • Fixed time (40 hours a week) flexible times is not so flexible, if people need times away, they are totally away (or Menlo find a specific arrangement for a limited time to make work from home possible)
  • Importance of checklists, of knowing to repeat something again and again, enablers of improvement
  • Accountability, with an example of the estimation process. No fear in the process to avoid bias in the system, transparency internally and externally
  • Communication aligned internally and externally. You have to tell the truth to the world, and if you can’t, you have to change your culture
  • 50% cash deferral on invoices in exchange for equity or royalty (huge and big success on this)
  • Flexible deadline discount (25%) invented during 2008 recession
  • High impact of getting things done on employees happiness

You’ve understood with all that list that I think the book is worth to read, even if I would continue to work to prove that asynchronous and distributed teams can also bring efficiency and joy.


Menlo Innovation office pictures is from article of J.D. Booth for