GA 003 | Learn What Joyfulness and Lean Thinking Have in Common with Richard Sheridan

By Ron Pereira Updated on June 16th, 2021

Richard Sheridan Lean ThinkerHow much joy and happiness do you, and your colleagues, feel each and every day?  Are you excited to come to work or do you dread it?  

No matter your answer… if you’re interested in learning how to create a more exciting, and fulfilling, work environment while also understanding how lean thinking and a joyful workplace actually work hand in hand you’re definitely going to want to give today’s episode a listen.

In this episode, I’m joined by Richard Sheridan, the CEO and Chief Storyteller at Menlo Innovations.

Menlo is a software design and development company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Last year, 2,197 people came from around the world to visit Menlo. They made the trek not to learn about technology, but to witness a radically different approach to workplace culture — one intentionally designed to produce joy.

During this interview Richard and I discuss how he, and the entire Menlo team, makes this happen!

You can also read the full written transcript at the bottom of this page.

In this episode you’ll learn

  • What “high tech anthropology” is all about
  • Richard’s favorite quotation… think how to create a sustainable culture
  • Why lean is actually about people and not spreadsheets
  • What the book Joy, Inc. is about and how its goal is to end human suffering
  • Why Menlo Innovations offers more than one tour per day
  • Why the title of the book ends in “Inc.”
  • Why Menlo programmers work in pairs and switch pairs every 5 business days
  • How the Menlo culture developed as a result of Richard’s experience and background
  • One practical piece of advice Richard has for any leader of people who wants to have a more joyful workplace
  • What was holding Richard back from being successful when he first started his professional career
  • The best advice Richard has ever received
  • One of Richard’s personal productivity habits including how he keeps his inbox under 10 emails
  • How Richard would approach his first week on the job at a distressed company void of any joy 

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Full Written Transcript

Ron Pereira:  You’re listening to episode 3 with Richard Sheridan.

Announcer:  Welcome to the Gemba Academy podcast… the show that’s focused on helping individuals and companies achieve breakthrough results using the same continuous improvement principles leveraged by companies such as Toyota, Del Monte, and the US Department of Defense.  And now, here’s your host, Ron Pereira.

Ron:  Hey there; welcome to another edition of the Gemba Academy podcast. Now, I’m extremely happy that you’re here and definitely want to thank you for taking the time to listen.

I also want to give a quick shout out to one of our listeners. A gentleman named Fernando recently sent us an email, where he said, “I’m just writing to say thanks for the information you’ve been sharing in your podcast. I’m a student of manufacturing management in Brazil, and your podcast is helping me a lot. Thank you very much, and keep up the great work.”

So all I can say to that is you’re very welcome, Fernando, and thank you for listening.

I’m really excited for today’s episode, Richard Sheridan, from Menlo Innovations, joins us to talk about a topic most continuous improvement practitioners probably don’t think about too much. That topic is joy.

You see, Richard’s company, Menlo Innovations, is all about fostering an incredibly joyful culture. In fact, here’s a little snippet from their website.

“At Menlo, we’ve built a culture that removes the fear and ambiguity that traditionally makes a work place miserable. With joy as the explicit goal, we’ve changed everything about how our company is run and have brought that joy into the lives of our clients and their end‑users.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that has to be one of the coolest statements that I’ve ever read about a company. Now, the show notes and links to everything discussed in this podcast can be found over at gembapodcast.com/03, that’s 20 as in 2 0. Well, let’s get to the show.

Well, all right, Richard. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today. Are you in Ann Arbor, Michigan? Is that where you’re joining us from today?

Richard Sheridan:  I am.

Ron:  Well, I actually haven’t told you this but I’m actually from Ohio. I am a huge Ohio State football fan. So hopefully that doesn’t ruin the rest of this interview.

Richard:  [laughs] Yeah, we’ll leave that for another conversation on another day.

Ron:  I actually interviewed Bill Waddell, I don’t know if you know Bill or not but Bill is a Michigan State guy. We were talking about Mike Rother and his Michigan ties and all.

I said, “Oh, he’s a good guy. There’s just one flaw to him.”


Ron:  Before we get started, Richard, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your background, about your company, Menlo. Obviously, throughout the interview, we’re going to talk about your book, “Joy, Inc.” Give us a little bit of background on who Richard is.

Richard:  My history is as a programmer. I started writing software when I was just a kid back in 1971. My high school offered a programming class when I was 13 years old, as a freshman in high school. I took it.

I fell in love with the idea that that could, one day, be a career for me. Here it is 43 years later, I’m still in the business. I think I was pretty clear in my vision for my future. Marched forward from that day to today, worked my way up standard corporate ladder for my 20s and 30s, and even the earliest part of my 40s.

Then, in 2001, when the Internet bubble burst, I was out on the street, like hundreds of thousands of other people in my profession. In that moment, I decided to start a business. That’s how Menlo came to be.

Ron:  Tell us a little bit about Menlo. What do you guys do?

Richard:  We are a business that, as the title of my book implies, focused on creating and sustaining what we call, “business value of joy,” which is a very unusual way to describe any business, particularly a software business.

The software industry is often a very joy‑less industry. I was a little kid excited about this profession. When I was a kid and I thought I want to create great software. I want to delight people with what I do.

There’s this engineering thing where, I think, a lot of people like to believe that engineers just want to engineer. In fact, what engineers want to really do is they want to delight people with their creations with their hands and their minds. That’s what I wanted to do.

We’ve built an entire culture focused on producing that kind of joy for the people who are ultimately going to use the software that we’re creating. That’s a pretty lofty goal.

Ron:  From a technical perspective, what kind of software do you guys develop? Is it apps?

Richard:  For us, it doesn’t really matter. We are contract software design and development firm. That means any of your listeners who want to build a piece of software, could call us and bring a couple of bags full of money with them and we’ll form a team around their project.

Then we will design, using, we’ll probably talk a little bit about this practice we call, “high tech anthropology,” which is all about understanding the humans that are going to use the software.

Then some really disciplined software development techniques that our programmers use to build incredibly solid, working software. There’s a softer side of Menlo, which is the high tech anthropology piece, which is all about making sure the user experience will delight.

Then there’s the hard engineering work on the inside that says, “it’s one thing to delight people with a great end user experience but dammit that software better work, too.”

We have both pieces to that covered here. So people come to us with projects. We’ve worked in about every industry you could imagine. The industry doesn’t matter. The technology doesn’t matter. The delivery devices doesn’t matter. Our team delights in all of those things.

Ron:  Love it. All right, before we get into the teeth of the interview, Richard, we like to ask our guests to share a continuous improvement or leadership quotation that inspires them. What quotation inspires you, Richard?

Richard:  Well in the context of this discussion, Ron, I think I want to use this quote. It’s a quote that says, “We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.” It’s by Derek Jensen, in a book called, “End Game; the Problem of Civilization.”

The reason I picked that quote for this discussion, and believe me, I have lots and lots of quotes.

Ron:  Yeah, in your book, [laughs] there’s a million. [laughs]

Richard:  The reason that this is important for me goes right to the heart of what I believe is the heart of LEAN and I get to meet a lot of LEAN thinkers. Mike Rather and Jeff Liker, are two of my best friends.

I get to connect with the LEAN community. What I find is there’s actually two version of LEAN out there. The version of LEAN I see out there, with the key leading thinkers, are the ones who know and understand that LEAN is actually about people.

Then there’s the other side of LEAN that scares me. It’s the one who thinks LEAN is all about spreadsheets, eliminating waste, cutting cost.

Ron:  Tools.

Richard:  Quite frankly, you can see the fear in the team that’s implementing LEAN. This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. It cannot be that way. That just doesn’t work.

The reason I picked that quote is because I think we have to start looking at, as a society, in general, sustainability of human beings.

Ron:  Yeah, love it. At a high level, Richard, tell us about your book, “Joy Inc.” What’s it all about?

Richard:  We adopted this mission at the earliest days at Menlo to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology. Our goal, since the beginning, was to return joy to, what we believe, is one of the most unique endeavors mankind has ever undertaken, that is the creation of software.

In my worldview, software is as big as anything mankind has ever discovered. Clearly, we’re in a golden age of software, in some ways.

[laughs] You can’t order a cup of coffee at Starbucks without software.

Ron:  We’re talking, right now, because of software. [laughs]

Richard:  Exactly. We couldn’t have this conversation without software. Yet, it is often the bane of our existence.

Hundreds of millions of billions of dollars are wasted in corporations, all around the world, because their software projects are going wrong. I didn’t want that for me.

This is a very personally, selfish journey. I built the place I want to work. We built this different kind of culture. We changed everything about the way software gets designed and developed.

There’s no stone we’ve left unturned. The world started coming here to see it. They did the Go to the Gimba thing. They come here and they come here by the thousands now every year.

We had 340 separate tours last year. If you do the math, there’s only 240, 250 business days in a year, 342, we’re doing more than a tour a day. 2,500 people came from around the planet to spend anywhere from two hours to a week.

Ron:  Let me stop you there. Why do you do so many tours? Some people would say, “Hey, we’re here to build a business,” and so forth. Taking tours or giving tours, obviously takes time, could be distracting. Why do you do so many?

Richard:  Part of it is altruistic. When we said we wanted to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology, we didn’t want to just do it for ourselves. We know we’ve discovered something fundamentally important about the process of designing and building software and the world wants to see it. We’re absolutely open to sharing with them.

Obviously, there’s a component of it that’s just damn clever marketing. I mean you get thousands of people of year to come here to walk through our place, to learn about the vision of the leadership of a company, to see the inside reality, and see that it matches the outside perception.

That is a form of education‑based marketing that, in my view, unparalleled in terms of anything else you can do. It’s a recruiting machine. It’s a customer retention machine. It’s a customer‑recruiting machine. It’s a PR machine and all that sort of thing.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s really about sharing what we’ve learned with the world. We get so many requests for these tours. We knew it was time to share the story in a book and that’s really how “Joy, Inc.” came to be.

Ron:  So can anyone come to a tour?

Richard:  Anybody.

Ron:  What do you do? I want to come today, what do I do?

Richard:  You just go onto our website, we have public tours once a month. Those are typically fill up months in advance. Those are the free ones.

Then we have a paid one that also fills up pretty quickly. Most of the tours are actually privately scheduled tours, corporations make with us. You can just write me or you can make a request there for private tour. We set it up.

Ron:  We’re going to have all the links to Menlo’s website, the books, and Richard’s social media connections at show notes, which is gembapodcast.com/03.

Richard, next question is I get the title of the book which always interest me. I get the joy part, that’s obvious why you put joy. Why “inc.”? Why “Joy Incorporated”? What’s” inc.” got to do with anything?

Richard:  Great question. This is not namby pamby, People’s Republic of Ann Arbor style business joy. This is serious tangible business value of joy. This is joy in the context of business because a lot of people hear the word, “Joy,” and they say, “Oh, how much does joy cost you?”

Ron:  Does that mean free sodas and free lunch? [laughs]

Richard:  Yeah, is this everybody gets to wear Hawaiian shirts and funny hats everyday? No, this is serious business value of joy.

This is not a zero‑sum game. We have some data that suggest that our approach is 10 times as efficient because the approach we take.

When we talk about joy, we have to talk about it on the context of business. That’s why it’s called, “Joy, Inc.”

Ron:  Next question I had. I understand that your programmers, your team members, work two to a computer and then, I believe you switch them. What is it, every five days?

Richard:  Yes.

Ron:  Why do you do this?

Richard:  Yes, that pairing and the switching of the pairs every five business days leads to essentially one of my other favorite quotes from Peter Sange, who wrote the book, “The Fifth Discipline,” that the only competitive advantage that we have today, is your organization’s ability to learn faster than your competition.

The essence of Menlo’s learning organization is this pairing construct. It feeds. It feeds quality. It feeds productivity. It feeds speed. It feeds on boarding.

It feeds the concept that we try to avoid which is we don’t want to build towers of knowledge, which is really fun for me because when I think about LEAN manufacturing, one of the things that LEAN looks at, I’m a kindergartener when it comes to LEAN, so don’t confuse me with any LEAN expert.

So you can correct me anywhere along the way here. That’s why I hang out with people like Jeff Leiker and Mike Broderick. They’re teaching me everything they know.

When I hear people talk about LEAN and on a plant floor, they often talk about sub‑optimization as a big challenge for plant floor thinking. We’re going to run all the work and process inventory through the most efficient machine on the plant floor.

Of course, if that machine breaks, it can shut down the entire factory. Unfortunately, this is the way most software teams run themselves.

They build up these individual towers of knowledge. They have the guy that’s the oracle, service pack two expert. All database work has to go through that guy.

Now, guy gets sick. He wants to take a vacation. He wins the lottery and retires early.

Ron:  You’re in big trouble.

Richard:  You’re in big trouble. The entire team will stop. I find it funny that, in some ways, LEAN has taught us to treat our machines better than my industry has treat our humans.

Ron:  At a practical level, when you have two people sitting at a computer, is there one keyboard? Do they take turns?

Richard:  One keyboard and one mouse. They’re talking through what they’re working on.

Ron:  So one person’s driving the other one is offering tips and advice.

Richard:  Yup. Driving is actually a pretty decent metaphor for this. Image you and I are on a road, maybe it’s a little bit fog shrouded, mountain highway, a little bit dangerous.

We’re trying to get some place by midnight or the hotel closes. So we’re going to be locked out. It’s important we get there on time. It’s important we get there alive.

As a driver, my job is to actually keep us between the lines. To pay attention to the traction of the tires on the snow‑covered road. Your job is to make sure we’re going to hit the goal.

You got the map in your hand. You’re keeping me informed of when the next exit is. “Oh my gosh, Rich, you’ve got to turn off here.”

I might be so focused on the road ahead, I miss the exit. This happens in all kinds of human teams.

It’s one of the reasons airlines put two pilots in [inaudible 17:14] . Even the airline industry had to figure out, over time, that the relationship between these two pilots has to be that of equals, even if you’re pilot and I’m co‑pilot.

When we’re up there, we have to be equal partners or we’re going to lose the value of having two human beings up there with two independent minds, four eyes, two hearts, four hands on the controls. All that sort of thing.

This is really, really important to our practice because ultimately, great software development is not about how fast you type, it’s about how fast you can think great thoughts.

Ron:  Two people can think better than one right?

Richard:  Yep.

Ron:  Has Menlo always been an incredible place to work, or is it something that’s evolved over the years?

Richard:  Menlo’s always been the same essentially. Obviously, we continuously look at how we do things, and run experiments to try new things. The Menlo you see today is essentially, the Menlo and the way it started.

To understand where this came from, you have to look back a little bit further in Rich’s career. I had progressed from programmer to Vice President over a 16‑year span. By the time I hit Vice President, as successful as the world saw me, I wanted out of the industry. “Get me out of here. I’m burning out.”

“I’m frustrated, I’m not leading well, and I’m not delivering well.” My team is frustrated, the customers are frustrated, and the users are tearing their hair out. Every possible dimension was going wrong in my life.

In the midst of all of this, this 16‑year journey, I was actually reading lots and lots of books. That’s why I have a lot of quotes, because I’m an avid reader. I really drink this stuff in. Along the way, finally it dawned on me, there’s this whole different way of doing things.

In 1999, I took a tired old, 30‑year‑old public company, and transformed them over a 6‑month period with my cofounder, now James Goebel. He was a consultant to me at the time, and transformed them to what Menlo looks like today.

I took the standard office and cube environment, literally some of these guys had been in their offices for 30 years. They hadn’t moved. I pulled them out. I put them in a big open room, and I had them sharing computers, code and everything.

Within six months, “Holy cow,” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It so far exceeded my expectations. I got two years to run this grand experiment. I’d probably still be doing that today, had the Internet bubble not burst in the California company that had purchased us in the mean time. Shuttered every [inaudible 20:09] office they had.

In those two years, what I learned how to do with James Goebel, was build a great engine room. When we launched Menlo, we already had that…

Ron:  The model. Richard, what’s one practical piece? In addition to reading your book, which is obvious, and I really do mean that. Every leader of people should read that book, and even if you aren’t a leader of people, you should read that book.

What’s one practical piece of advice that you can give to that leader who’s listening to this podcast right now, and doesn’t work in an organization full of joy. Perhaps they’re wondering how he or she can develop a more joyful work place. What’s one practical thing they could do this week?

Richard:  I will say number one, if you’re not already, become a student again, and start reading. For me, authors are now my teachers, my professors. I give a lot of book recommendations in the back of my book, and I’m not saying my book should be your book.

My basic advice on any book is start reading it, and if it grabs you keep going, and if it doesn’t set it down for later, and you’ll probably never get back to it. Begin a journey of discovery again. Get excited about your career.

One of my favorite YouTube videos, or TEDx talks is Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why?” That’s really important. In the mix of the cacophony of business and chaos, and all that sort of thing, people forget why they got into their profession in the first place.

You’ve got to remind yourself of that. I would say go watch that video, and think about your personal why.

I will tell you that this place is the place I want to work. That’s what I did before I re‑crafted. It was hard. It’s not easy. None of this is easy.

Somebody signing up for this podcast saying, “Oh, cool. Ron’s going to give me an easy way to significant change.

Ron:  A checklist.

Richard:  Exactly. Five things that I’ve done. It is simple, but simple is almost never easy, particularly when it comes to changing human behavior.

I will also say find partners, and what I mean by that is when I transformed that old company, my CEO, I was the VP, my boss was my partner in this. James Goebel was my partner in this. I could not have done this without their support, their encouragement, because you get tired.

You feel defeated from time to time. You’ll wonder, can I really do this, and you can, but every once in a while you need somebody you trust whispering in your ear saying, “Keep going. You’re doing the right thing, don’t give up.”

Ron:  We’ve now come to my favorite part of the show, which we’re calling the quick fire segment. This is basically where you get to share your thoughts, and your wisdom with our listeners, which you’ve been doing, but the difference is now we’re really going to focus on Richard, OK?

First question is, when you first started down your personal and continuous improvement journey. Let’s call it continuous improvement journey. What was holding you back from being successful?

Richard:  The thing that was holding me back was how did I define success? For the first part, I defined success the way the world defines success. Greater stock options, more benefits, higher position, corner office, bigger team that I was leading, and all that stuff.

What I realized is that’s not what success is all about. Success is about do you love what you do? Can you bring personal energy to work every day, and if you can’t change the situation, whatever that means for you.

Ron:  Richard, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Richard:  The best thing I’ve ever did which was a series of points of advice was, when I partnered up with James Goebel to retool that old tired public company. James started rattling off a bunch of experimental ideas to me, and I kept saying, “Yes.”

One day he looked at me and says, “Rich, you don’t get how this consulting thing works. You have to say no at least once, or else you will be able to hold me accountable for the results you are producing.”


Richard:  “I need one escape hatch.” I said, “James, you’re not going to get it, because I believe in what you’re doing.” I know this is a little bit different from the question you asked, but what I found in that partnership was a kindred spirit. In that kindred spirit, I was able to actually hear the advice he was delivering to me, and act on it. That was really valuable for me.

Ron:  Having that trust as well, that’s how I feel with my business partners. I trust them inherently, even if I don’t always agree with them. I trust them. I trust their wisdom, and we go together. We fail together and we win together. I love that.

Next question, can you share, Richard, one of your personal productivity habits that others might benefit from?

Richard:  I’m a little bit weird in this regard. I am the guy who actually checks email first in the morning. My inbox, even this morning, was below 10 in messages.

The way I got to this was interesting. Maybe you’ve heard, Ron, of Randy Pausch who was the Carnegie Mellon professor famous for “The Last Lecture.”

Ron:  Yes, oh, my gosh, what a powerful…I’m definitely going to link to that. I haven’t watched that for years.

Richard:  Interesting enough the thing you want to link to, this is powerful. He actually did one more lecture after that one. Most people don’t know this, and he did it on time management.

Ron:  I didn’t know that.

Richard:  It’s awesome. He starts out, it’s so compelling. He says, “Look, I’m dying of pancreatic cancer. I’ll probably be gone in three months. If you’re not going to listen to me about time management, I’m not sure who you’re going to listen too.”

Ron:  Where is that at?

Richard:  If you type “Randy Pausch time management,” you’ll find a YouTube video. What he talks about interestingly enough is he applies Steven Kubby thinking, which is, “Work on the urgent and the important first.”

Most people go to urgent unimportant second, and both Kubby and Pausch say that’s procrastination, because what you should actually do is move to important, but not urgent next. This is the mistake that we all make in managing our time is the siren call of the urgent always seems to consume us.

Then he asks the question, “How many of you have more than 10 email messages in your inbox right now?” Everybody’s looking at him, “What are you kidding? I’ve got a thousand in my inbox right now.” He’s, “You can’t have that. It’s electronic ADD. You don’t know which one to focus on, so you end up not focusing on any. It’s chaos.”

He walks through in his version an electronic way to organize that, so you get down to 10 very quickly. I, because we’re weird Menlo, and tactile little piece of paper, I actually turned it into a little index card system.

I use this to manage that part of my day. It’s awesome, because I stayed very approachable by the world because of this. I don’t let email consume my day, which is very easy to do, and it destroys your personal productivity.

Ron:  I can’t wait to watch that. I’ll be honest. I stink at email.

Richard:  We all do. This is like a disease. We should teach kids how to do this in school, because this is a huge problem for corporate America.

Ron:  I need Menlo to develop some software for my Apple mail. My problem is, after I read an email I don’t delete it. It sounds stupid, but I don’t delete it, so then I have a hundred emails in my inbox, 90 of them may have been read, but I’ve got to find a way to get rid of them somehow.

Maybe it’s a filing system, or I used to use Gmail, so I would archive. I don’t know. I’m a mess when it comes to email. We can take it offline. You can connect to catch me.


Richard:  If we ever end up at a conference together, I can take five minutes, and physically demonstrate the system.

Ron:  I’m going to take you up on that. [laughs]

Richard, we’ve talked a lot about different books. If there’s one book related to leadership or business that you would recommend someone has to read. What would it be and why?

Richard:  The team was frightened when I said this the other day, because they know how many books I’ve read in general.

I told them the other day. I said, I just read the most important book I’ve ever read. They were all, “Uh‑oh,” because they know that books change me.

It’s an old one actually, fairly old. It’s called, “Leadership and Self Deception,” by the Arbinger Institute. Boy, oh boy, I’ll tell you. If you want a book that helps you think about, and work on your relationships at work, managerially, at home with your family, your spouse, your community, your neighbors, the annoying person on the airplane.

This is the book. It has grabbed me and taught me new things about interpersonal relationships, which are so key to leadership. I would highly recommend that book.

Ron:  Give the name and author again.

Richard:  Yep, it’s “Leadership and Self‑Deception,” and the author, if you will, is an institute. It’s called the Arbinger Institute, A‑R‑B‑I‑N‑G‑E‑R Institute ‑‑ a phenomenal book.

Ron:  OK.

Richard:  And I’ll just ‑ let me throw out just a couple more.

Ron:  That’s fine. That’s fine. [laughs]

Richard:  Anything by the guys at VitalSmarts.

Ron:  OK.

Richard:  “Crucial Conversations,” “Crucial Confrontations,” “Influencer,” are great books and then, quite frankly, I’m a total geek about Patrick Lencioni books ‑‑ “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” “Getting Naked” ‑‑awesome books.

Ron:  Yes. Yes. Well, we’ll link to all of those in the show notes – gembapodcast.com/03. All right, so this next question is interesting because I don’t typically talk to top level leaders of an organization like yourself, Richard, so I’m going to kind of modify this one a little bit, but the gist of the story goes like this.

That ‑ just pretend that you’re not the leader of Menlo, OK? You were recently hired to take over a company that is totally a mess, I mean, they are struggling with everything from quality, productivity, morale is terrible. There’s no joy to be found, [laughs], OK?

And the CEO that hires you has basically given you full operational control and trusts that you’re going to right the ship. So with this said, what’s the first week going to look like for Richard on the job at this mess of a company? What are you going to do?

Richard:  Well, I think to be a leader in that situation, you have to engender followership. Leaders without followers isn’t leadership at all, it’s a guy out on a walk.

Ron:  Yeah.

Richard:  And so, it has to be a beginning of a journey building trust with this team to establishing your authentic heart for those people, and I would probably grab that Simon Sinek video and play it. It’s 15 minutes, and show the “Start With Why.” Then, start a conversation with the team, however big they are, that maybe is the ones I’m touching and say, “Why are you here?”

Ron:  Yeah.

Richard:  “What drew you, either to this profession, to this industry? Let’s get back to our ‘Why,'” because now we’re going to start to use that ‘Why’ to refit everything we’re doing because now if we ‑ you know, I think, humans, in general, want to work on something bigger than themselves.

Ron:  Right.

Richard:  They want that sense of purpose of mission. And my guess is a company in chaos has lost that. That there’s fear in the room. There’s ‑ you know, people that are panicking about their jobs, their house payments, all that sort of thing.

And I think the first thing you have to do with that team is reground them to the purpose behind the organization. Not the purpose of “Why I work here,” but the purpose of “Why we exist as a team. What do we believe? What’s our shared belief system about where we’re going?”

And once establishing that, now let’s start looking at the things we do, if you will, the “Whats” and “Hows” and get to those things and say, “Well, how are we doing this?” and start pushing things off the airplane that don’t need to be on the airplane anymore.

Ron:  Yes, yes.

Richard:  You know, a lot of companies, when they’re in chaos, which is the land of never getting anything done, which sounds like the fictitious organization you’re describing, and also, probably 90 percent of the corporations out there. They implement bureaucracy as its antidote.

Well, you go then from an organization that doesn’t get anything done to an organization that doesn’t get anything started.

Ron:  Yeah.

Richard:  And that bureaucracy is actually far more debilitating than chaos.

Ron:  Yeah.

Richard:  Because at least chaos, we’re doing stuff. Bureaucracy, everybody is sitting around waiting for a decision to be made, for a meeting to be had, for an approval or for a sign‑off or for a budget to be approved. And you know, what our view of this is, neither chaos nor bureaucracy is the answer.

What humans crave, more than anything else, and this is where I think Menlo and the LEAN community have just absolutely aligned and fallen in love with each other is they crave simple, repeatable, measurable structure.

Ron:  Yeah.

Richard:  Something just like our kids, right? Our kids, they want to know that when they get up in the morning there’s breakfast and then they get dressed for school, and they go off school, and the bell rings and there can be learning because that structure frees up so much of your attention from dealing with chaos.

Ron:  Yes. Yes. Oh, excellent response. Thank you for that. All right, Richard, so thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule. I know you have lots of interviews and giving lots of tours and whatnot. Why don’t we just close this show up, Richard, with sharing ‑ why don’t you share some final words of wisdom, and then, tell people how they can connect with you on social media.

Richard:  I think all of us, you know, we wake up in the morning and we’re trying to hold onto those little dreams we’ve had all our lives for what we want to accomplish in our lives, what we want to accomplish in our families, what we want to accomplish in our careers, and most of those dissipate like the morning fog.

And so, my encouragement to your listeners, Ron, is just hang onto those. You can achieve those. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s really important, so don’t lose sight of those.

Ron:  Yes. Yes.

Richard:  To keep up with me, @menloprez is my Twitter handle.

Ron:  OK.

Richard:  “MenloInnovation” without the S ‑‑ because that’s the longest Twitter handle you can have ‑‑ is our corporate Twitter ID, and I have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn account, and probably three other pieces of social media that my team has me on that all have the @menloprez ID on that.

Ron:  OK.

Richard:  So you’ll generally find me there.

Ron:  Excellent.

Richard:  Our website is www.MenloInnovations.com. We invite the world to come in for tours, so you’re welcome to come. The book is available wherever books are sold, both electronic and print, soon to be audio.

And also, kind of a fun author moment for the author of “Joy” is the Chinese, the Russians, the Romanians and at least one other country have signed up for translations.

Ron:  Nice.

Richard:  I’m losing track of them now, so clearly there is a need for “Joy” in China and Russia and Romania right now.

Ron:  Yeah, yeah, excellent. Well, again. Thanks, Richard, for taking the time and perhaps we can do another interview. I’ll tell you what, I would love to come and visit you there in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I guess I won’t come in November, or anything like that, or towards the end of November but…

Richard:  We actually can see the grass again, Ron, it’s awesome.

Ron:  Yeah. All right. All right. I actually meant when Ohio State plays Michigan, but you know…


Richard:  Here we go.


Ron:  Actually…

Richard:  Trying to avoid bad weather, yeah.

Ron:  As I said, I grew up in Ohio. I’m in Texas, now, so I know the weather. Boy! I’ll tell you…


Ron:  It’s a… Thanks again, Richard. Have a great day.


Richard:  Thanks, Ron.



What Do You Think?

What did you think of this episode? Do you hope to create a more joyful workplace? Also, do you agree that there is a correlation between lean thinking and joy?

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