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July 2021 Menlo Bits


Introducing A Fresh Taste of High-Tech Anthropology®
Ask our High-Tech Anthropologists® anything!

In A Fresh Taste of High-Tech Anthropology®, you'll experience an hour-long panel with our High-Tech Anthropologists® to learn more about Menlo Innovations’ High-Tech Anthropology® process. This is a great way to get your ideas going on how to create better experiences for your customers!

Upcoming Tour Dates:
Wednesday, August 11th
Wednesday, August 25th

Limited seats available, register with the link above!

The Neuroscience of Trust
Management behaviors that foster employee engagement

Managers have tried various strategies and perks to boost employee engagement—all with little impact on long-term retention and performance. But now, neuroscience offers some answers. Through his research on the brain chemical oxytocin—shown to facilitate collaboration and teamwork—Zak has developed a framework for creating a culture of trust and building a happier, more loyal, and more productive workforce. Read on to learn how Zak’s research led to the identification of eight key management behaviors that stimulate oxytocin production and generate trust. Read the full article here!

Rich’s airplane graphic above shows the ‘drag of fear’ can inhibit an organization’s ability to gain altitude, much like drag is the force that resists movement of an aircraft through the air. Like the graphic? Rich has a whole keynote around how the forces of an airplane are like the forces at work in an organization. Contact us to book Rich for one of your team events!


Open for Registration: Story Mapping Workshop
Learn how to adapt to changing project deadlines and budget!

We're so happy to announce that our Story Mapping Workshop is open for registration! This workshop introduces the basic techniques of story mapping, explains how it relates to Menlo's other PM processes, and gives participants multiple opportunities for hands-on learning in group activities.

Upcoming Workshop Date:
Thursday, August 26th, 8:30AM - 12:30PM

Limited seats available, register with the link above!


Making Joy a Priority at Work
Joy connects people more than any other human experience!

This Harvard Business Review article about making joy a priority at work felt like it was made for us. Joy is the key to how Menlo works the way we do!

Many who visit us often ask the question "but how could this work in my organization?" They think that because the size or age of their organization or the industry they are working in is different from ours, that achieving an intentionally joyful culture is out of their reach. What can often be forgotten is that people intrinsically seek joy, as it connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience.

In team environments, joy arises from a combination of harmony, impact, and acknowledgement. Making a business culture centered around these experiences can create a huge opportunity for leaders. Learn more and read the full article here!


The Checklist Manifesto
By: Atul Gawande

Recommended by:
Andrew Muyanja, Senior High-Tech Anthropologist

Could a simple tool like a checklist help avert mistakes with catastrophic consequences? Dr. Atul Gawande makes a convincing case for Yes! A surgeon by profession, he draws from his experiences in medicine and service with the World Health Organization to illustrate how checklists improved healthcare outcomes in hospitals across the world. He further expands his argument to explore how checklists are used in other sectors like aviation and construction.   A riveting storyteller, Dr. Gawande’s book will also keep you consumed with tales from all over the world.
The Checklist Manifesto is important because scaling up processes that work well is challenging. In just about any field, quality is hard to scale. If a simple tool like a checklist can have profound impacts in life or death scenarios like aviation and surgery, we in the business world could learn from this. Even the most experienced people make mistakes, and sometimes these oversights have terrible consequences. Checklists are certainly not appropriate in every situation but they could help more than we think!
What checklists could you implement in your world? Get yourself a copy here!

Estimating Storycards Using PlanningPoker.com

Each week, Menlonians estimate the number of hours it will take to complete storycards for each of our projects. In the office, this was done with a delicate balance of pair conversations and group discussions. The team would discuss the card, then the pairs would put their heads together and discuss between themselves. If a pair had a question or insight, they would get the attention of the whole group to share it.

The problem: We found that when we estimate via a video call, we can’t manage seamless transitions between paired and group discussions (breakout rooms were okay, but did not make for a seamless experience in this case). We hypothesized that this constraint, as well as the addition of new team members (yay!), made it so that all of the developers often estimated the same number of hours for a card. Usually, everyone was choosing the first estimate that was suggested or the estimate suggested by the strongest voice in the room. We wanted to get back to a more robust estimation meeting that included broad dialog, disagreement, and the opportunity for newer team members to meaningfully contribute.

The experiment: As we were discussing this problem, Michael, one of our developers, found Planning Poker! This site is specifically designed for Agile and Scrum teams to estimate remotely. It allows for developers to privately submit their estimate and then the Project Manager can ‘flip’ their estimates to make them visible to all. Then the development team can discuss any surprising discrepancies. This usually looks like a team member with a low estimate asking a team member with a high estimate to explain their choice, or vice versa. 

We found that this reinvigorated the estimation meeting and resulted in much deeper discussion of the developers’ conception of the work to be done on cards and how long it would take! Another success for the mantra: “Let’s run the experiment.”


Menlo Bits

The Menlo Bits is Menlo's monthly newsletter, filled with all the latest in science and technology trends as well as what's been happening at Menlo.