A guest blog by Maartje Wolf and Fennande van der Meulen, Happyoffice.nl

 

The company culture is one of the success factors of Menlo Innovations, a Michigan based software company. ‘Culture is the sum of all the relationships you have within your organization,’ says James Goebel, one of the founders. That means taking really good care of people, caring about them, understanding them, and building good relationships with them. For Rich Sheridan, the other founder, keynote speaker, and author of Joy.inc and Chief Joy Officer, taking care has to do with simple things, a chat in the morning, when he makes the first pot of coffee and empties the dishwasher with a colleague. Showing real and genuine interest in people. Not allowing overwork. And investing in people feeling safe at the workplace, because fear kills joy.

Flexible office space

The office space that Menlo uses lends itself to the culture: a big open space, with flexible furniture, that can easily be moved around to adjust for employees’ needs. No need to ask for permission, you just do as you need it. Does one of the employees have a new-born and doesn’t want to leave it, just yet? Bring your baby to work, either in a carrying bag or a stroller. ‘People tend to behave nicely when there is a baby in the room,’ they say, ‘both colleagues and clients.’ And if the father or mother has an important phone call, there is always someone willing to cuddle the baby or go for a walk.

Pairing

At Menlo teamwork is key, people always work in pairs. Sitting next to each other, sharing one computer, for five days with the same person. Loud? Yes! But that is the sound of people working together, of vibrant human energy, of people connecting to each other.

Even their hiring process is built around this principle of pairing: two candidates work together and it is their job to get the óther person to the next round. Interviews are never one-on-one, but always in a group setting, where culture fit is the most important criterium. The main question is ‘do you want to work with this person?’ They say: ‘we can teach you to code, but to be a nice person and a great co-worker, we cannot learn you’.

 

The most agile company

When the pandemic hit, all of that had to change, from one day to another. ‘It took me a bit of time to get used to the situation,’ Rich explains, ‘and gave me many sleepless nights.’ But people at Menlo adjusted really fast. Linda Rising, one of the thought leaders in the Agile community, once called Menlo ‘the most agile company in the world’ and it showed. Pair programming continued as before, but virtually. The rhythm of the daily meetings continued, but virtually. Human relationships are fostered by spending time together, so they do everything to keep that possible. The team asked for more communication, and since Rich and his co-founder James believe in transparency, they started the ‘Tuesday lunch with Rich and James’ where everything is discussed, open and transparent: financials, clients, leads, everything.

 

Value fit

The office space and the daily and weekly rituals are all part of the culture of Menlo. But also a clear purpose and values, that serve as guiding principles for behaviour, are important. How do we treat each other here? Why do we exist? All Menlonians understand that and act upon it. At Menlo, it all fits together so nicely that although they did need some time to adjust early 2020, they are a resilient and agile company. And a great example. Want to know how it works? Don’t take my word for it! Go look for yourself and book a Virtual Menlo Factory Tour.

 

In our next blog post, we will tell you more about how to build a culture like Menlo’s in your organization.

 

A guest blog by Maartje Wolf and Fennande van der Meulen, Happyoffice.nl

 

Fennande

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