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Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love [Kindle Edition]

Richard Sheridan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The moment you walk into Menlo Innovations, you can sense the atmosphere full of energy, playfulness, enthusiasm, and maybe even . . . joy. As a package-delivery person once remarked, “I don’t know what you do, but whatever it is, I want to work here.”

Every year, thousands of visitors come from around the world to visit Menlo Innovations, a small software company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They make the trek not to learn about technology but to witness a radically different approach to company culture.

CEO and “Chief Storyteller” Rich Sheridan removed the fear and ambiguity that typically make a workplace miserable. His own experience in the software industry taught him that, for many, work was marked by long hours and mismanaged projects with low-quality results. There had to be a better way.

With joy as the explicit goal, Sheridan and his team changed everything about how the company was run. They established a shared belief system that supports working in pairs and embraces making mistakes, all while fostering dignity for the team.

The results blew away all expectations. Menlo has won numerous growth awards and was named an Inc. magazine “audacious small company.” It has tripled its physical office three times and produced products that dominate markets for its clients.

Joy, Inc. offers an inside look at how Sheridan and Menlo created a joyful culture, and shows how any organization can follow their methods for a more passionate team and sustainable, profitable results. Sheridan also shows how to run smarter meetings and build cultural training into your hiring process.

Joy, Inc. offers an inspirational blueprint for readers in any field who want a committed, energizing atmosphere at work—leading to sustainable business results.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5494 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (26 Dec. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #174,415 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Joy 1 Mar. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a must read book for anyone who cares about how to make our workplaces better. A fresh and inspirational take on running an organisation that puts its people first whilst still being a serious, commercial organisation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars true inspiration 29 Dec. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
One of the best books I read last year. Lots of hints on what changes to make to my firm. I never was especially for pair programming but reading the benefits it brings, scaling teams up (and down), I think I'm going to give it a try.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  64 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Leadership is Dead, Long Live Leadership 31 Jan. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After furiously blogging about this to HR audiences, my conclusion was the most important aspect of the book is not just the one very clear, simply presented example of what works to create happier staff and far better results in one organization, but the model this provides for what organizational leaders have been missing for a very long time. Many others are writing about the need to change the old model of command-and-control to a new one that includes everyone, gets everyone engaged and participating and shares decision-making. The problem has been only a few examples existed and none made it sound as easy, with such clear explanations and step by step guidance.

Kudos to Richard Sheridan for not pulling any punches about what's wrong in old-style organizations and for being very clear that his is only one model of what works, but contains very obvious elements that will be necessary no matter how one chooses to try to structure new experiments in better ways of managing and leading.

As a long time, former VP HR, I have no hesitation recommending this book, though quite a few are going to point out that it shows how you can operate without HR (in this one structure). As a long time defender of HR and the value it adds to organizations that doesn't worry me a bit. HR will continue to play a pivotal role in helping understand and implement these sorts of better organizations and training people, especially in leadership, that are needed to make them effective. Of course the nature of the HR role will change - for the better I might add - just as all the other roles will change as well. It won't go away, but like the others will become more fun and more satisfying as it begins to deliver all it can.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear vision for purposeful work and life 26 Jan. 2014
By Charles Stout - Published on
Several hours after I finished reading Rich's book, I sent him an email saying how much I enjoyed and appreciated what he had to say. After all the books I pored over back when I was a business consultant, Joy, Inc. shows wisdom and heart that truly make for great business and fulfilling work life. From the blurbs I had read before opening the book, I expected dramatic crises with big salvation, which seems to be standard fare among business books. But Rich isn't a crisis, confusion, scream and heroic savior kind of guy, and I already knew that from working with him and his team a few years ago. And my company adopted and has used for at least five years our own hybridization of Menlo Innovation's the "ten o'clock shout out"/"weekly show and tell", so I know the value of these practices. I'm sure this isn't the only reason the current staff at my company is the best team I've ever had the pleasure to work with, but I believe it is an important factor. Rich shows the everyday work flow and problems in good economic times and bad and how his team has chosen to succeed across all situations. A couple of things he mentions, but may be lost on the reader, the successes of Rich's company had already proved themselves in his previously failing company: what it took was confidence he and his partners could do it again without the part of the company that had failed. Rich's company is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is an incredibly creative, accepting and forward thinking town, which during Michigan's deepest unemployment, peaked at around 7%. If you're going to start or relocate a business, or go to work for one, you might want to find a town like Ann Arbor. Also, something Rich doesn't mention is that he himself is an imposing personality of great good, patience and knowledge. His partners, whom he credits highly, are as worthy of the superlatives his gives them in his book. As you read, it would be worthwhile to make a mental note of these things. I plan to re-read it a few times and recommend it to everyone.
54 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I actually worked at Menlo, ... here's the part Rich doesn't want you to know. 6 Feb. 2014
By Eric William - Published on
If low pay, constant lay-offs and cheating the IRS brings Joy, well, then you'll love the book.

First, I'll tell you what Menlo does right - they make great software. I was really proud of the software we wrote when I was there. And you'll learn what it is like to work in a collaborative environment. I would recommend any company hire Menlo for software development.

That said, workers at Menlo are not as joyous as Rich makes it sound. Like any business, SOME people love it, some people hate it.
Any "joy" at Menlo comes at a price.

Rich has admitted on a podcast that the pay at Menlo is on the low side. Maybe "joy" is worth it ... but keep reading.

For all this talk of "joy", I think most people want a job with consistent work (and pay). For all the hype, Menlo has not been able to keep people employed. Rich tried to open a second office in Chicago - it failed. As a Menlo employee, you'll face constant layoffs as the company struggles to get work. Layoffs are common. Part of this is due to having too much process. Menlo charges a high fee (as admitted by their head project manager in a blog post). The high fee is due to large teams assigned to every project. In theory, the team means high quality, but process is taken to extremes at Menlo.

One competitor to Menlo is Thought Works. Both companies have a similar model. They compete in the Agile Software market. Thought Works employs sales people to get work. Menlo has openly shunned a sales force - and the lack of consistent work is the result.

The on-again, off-again part was a bit too much for me.

When I was being hired, other employees took me aside and told me the contact was illegal. So I had my employment contract reviewed by an attorney. The Menlo employee contract is one sided (like that of most companies), but it has language to cheat the IRS by classifying employees as "contractors." I was not too bothered by that. But other employees - I mean "contractors" - were really bothered by the hypocrisy.

And it is the hypocrisy that you'll read in this book. I got my copy at a trade show last week.

A lot of the hype that Rich promotes is based on his style to "bend" the truth. Menlo was founded on a study called The "Chaos Report." It's a report that concluded that most software project fail. That caused a movement to try to improve how software is written - which sounds great. Well, it turns out that the conclusion was hogwash. [Search for "Debunking the Chaos Report"].

Rich likes to take a good story and use it to promote what he is selling. The Chaos Report helped him sell jobs. His new book takes the same approach. From someone that worked at Menlo, the book is not really what happens there. We'd all like to work at a wonderful job for an idyllic company.

Don't get me wrong, the product is great. People may "love" the idea of the Menlo workplace, but don't confuse the IDEA with the REALITY of working there. People who visit fall in love with the IDEA, the CONCEPT, the DREAM - not the reality of ACTUALLY working there.

All the comments posted to date, are people who are falling in love with an idealized workplace. Yes, Menlo gets a lot of press, but a workplace includes the pedestrian also. Things like PAY, regular WORK and the employment CONTRACT. While these are boring, they are the part of the picture not included in the book. All the idyllic prose does not change the fact that - it is a workplace we are talking about.

Reviewers don't have to work there. So it is easy to read a nice book and comment on it - without the work part. This book separates WORK from PLACE. This book is about a PLACE, an environment, a dream. But it ignores the WORK - things like pay, hours and how one is treated in the contract. And these items are very low on the "joy"scale at Menlo.

So ... if you want a fantasy book about an idealized work environment, get the book. If you're a manager looking to steal talented people with a best-places to work ... avoid this book. Workers exit Menlo for more traditional corporate gigs at a fast pace. Why ... it's not all that joyful to work for low wages.

P.S. Since this post first aired, threatening emails have been sent by guess who? I think if you write a book, you should just let people review it. I think it's a bad idea to threaten a reviewer. I'm only saying, this book is a story about an idealized workplace. It's not a guide book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ for ALL managers! 30 Dec. 2013
By David Siegel - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I know that a 5-star rating looks a bit too good to be true, but this book is exactly the right thing at the right time. Rich takes you through the motivations for a complete overhaul of your work environment and processes. It's simple, actually: if you are reading this in a cubicle, you should read this book. If you're reading it from your corner office, you NEED to read this book. Stop doing business as usual and start doing what works. Most people are not energized or engaged with their jobs. Most projects are late and overbudget, often ending in death marches and people feeling treated poorly. Joy, Inc, shows the way out. In ten years, we'll probably be doing a number of things slightly differently, but this basic way of people working together, side by side, enjoying it, making "the sound of people working," even if their kids and pets are nearby, is going to lead us out of cubicles and command/control hierarchies.

I would suggest reading this book, along with "The Leader's Guide to Radical Management" and the Valve Company Handbook, which you can find by searching online.

It's time for a management revolution. This is one of the key playbooks. It should be part of any MBA program - in fact, it should be how they RUN the MBA programs!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly inspirational vision 26 Jan. 2014
By J Wolf - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For those of us who have long suspected there is a better approach to work, Rich Sheridan has now documented proof of what is possible! And it's not a fairy tail being told by some theoretical professor who hasn't had to actually make things happen in the real world. It was done by real people in the real business world and in an industry plagued by professional burn-out and high-dollar project failures!! Personally, I can't wait to begin shifting the culture of my own workplace and trying mini-Menlo experiments of our own... Even though we don't make software, I can see how these basic principles and strategies can apply to transform any workplace into one that fosters a culture of joy - and all the positive things that follow!
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