Menlo Innovations: Taking Teams to the Next Level
The Menlo Software Factory, “is most notable for what you don’t see,” says CEO Richard Sheridan. “No cubes. No walls. No doors. The teams decide where to put the tables. There’s no corner office—no CEO Land. I sit at a five-foot table with another person. The teams put me where they want me.”
Sheridan introduces the uninitiated to Menlo’s distinctive methodology and practices.
High-Tech Anthropologists Michelle Pomorski and Carissa Demetris put their heads together on a design problem. Pairing is “the most powerful managerial tool I’ve ever discovered,” says Sheridan.
All together now: Project managers, High-Tech Anthropologists, software developers, and quality advocates all labor together in a project pod, rather than working dispersed around the Factory Floor.
James Goebel and Sheridan, two of the three Menlo owners, discuss a client’s project on the Menlo Software Factory floor, which is modeled after Thomas Edison’s “Invention Factory” in New Jersey.
In an estimation session Ian Feldt (left) and Ted Layher calculate how much time they’ll spend completing each task for their project.
Software developers Kealy Opelt and Gabe Ilko collaborate Menlo-style.
Many minds make light work. Although one pair is assigned to work through a logic problem, everyone takes responsibility for its solution.
Michelle Pomorski and Carol Morton (right), update the team on their work during the daily standup.
The Helmet—Menlo’s “speaking token”—is shared between two “pair partners.” If you don’t have the helmet, then you don’t talk.
Project Manager Megan Sheridan updates the work authorization board.
Like these Menlo employees, job candidates are asked to work in pairs to complete a project.
The goal of asking job candidates to work together is for them to make their partners look good.
Every employee, from the project managers to the interns, gets a vote on who should be hired. The founders do not.
There are no hierarchies at Menlo. Everyone knows what everyone makes just like in the government.
At Menlo, because your co-workers know you best, they decide if you’re ready to be promoted.
Keep it simple: Menlo takes a paper-based approach to design work.
Menlo deploys some employees on in-house projects and swaps them into client work when the schedule gets tight to ensure 40-hour workweeks. Pairs of developers and High-Tech Anthropologists work on Menlo’s new website.
Menlo isn’t for everyone. Soloist need not apply.
Solution Architect Jim Rodgers and Lisa Ho prepare a planning game for a client. So many features. So little time. Where should the team focus its energies?
John Samford and Dan Harrington and Maggie Beeson (baby). New mothers are encouraged to bring their babies to work for as long as they like.
Solution architects and a project manager have a discussion.