Virtual Factory Tour?

If you have an hour to invest, consider a factory tour at MENLO Innovations, the software company that got super-famous by Richard Sheridan and his book “Joy, Inc.”. Here is why.

If you have an hour to invest, consider a factory tour at MENLO Innovations, the software company that got super-famous by Richard Sheridan and his book “Joy, Inc.”. Here is why.

Dear Readers,

One of the things on my bucket list was to see how the associates work at Menlo Innovations. I have read the book as so many of you and got inspired to try out a few things mentioned in the book “Joy, Inc.” by Richard Sheridan. If you haven’t read the book, do it. It is an eye opener. My version is full of comments, ideas etc. If you are more visual, look at YouTube for further information.

Picture of my copy of Joy, Inc. – full of wisdom!

Now, in these days with the COVID-19 spreading and plus 195k deaths in the United States, MENLO is practicing a virtual factory tour. This gives all of the world a chance to go & see what they are doing. The tour takes about 90 minutes and is led by a pair of MENLO associates  via Zoom. You see pictures, hear their stories and learn how they collaborate. That is a classical webinar style.

Go Live

And then the situation changes with going live into their tool box. You actually see the tools MENLO uses for planning their work. Tools that everybody (as in you and me) knows and has free access to. During the tour the tour guides are checking in with associates working remote to protect themselves against the pandemic. A lively discussion with the Menlonians and the group starts.

Legendary Pairing

One of the things I was interested in was seeing how they practice their legendary pairing. For those of you not having read the book, the software programmers share in their office a desk, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. One is programming (typing), the other is checking, switching back and forth between roles frequently.

One common pattern is person A writing a test, person B writing the production code to make the test pass, and then switching so that person B writes a test that person A makes pass. At MENLO this is informally called “ping pong” because of how quickly the keyboard moves back and forth sometimes.

Quote from a MENLO software developer

This is a great way of training people. You learn by seeing, do the work, get instant feedback from your team mate. I have suggested it quite a few times for my industry mandates and it shortens the learning phase significantly. As well, it is a proven system for improving quality (like in typing, machining, …) or reducing logical errors.

With remote, how are they doing this? The tour group joined a team and I could ask the questions how they practically work, how they are doing their stand up meetings remote etc. How is planning done, how do they plan against constrained resources with many project managers eager to deliver their project.

I will not spoil you with the results. From my point of view it is outstanding what the Michigan software company has done to transition from working in their buildings to working remote by sticking to their proven systems and not sacrificing their culture.

As said before, I definitely recommend joining the virtual factory tour and see by yourself how differently products can be developed.

Here is the external link for MENLO Innovations virtual tours. Please join and if you ask yourself if I am getting paid for this? I am doing this review solely for you to help you succeed in business.

Dear Richard,

it was a pleasure seeing at the gemba (workplace) what you described. Thank you for sharing.

Update 2020-09-18
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