Growing with Glue Work

July 21, 2021
Growing with Glue Work

Co-Writ­ten By Kylie Mar­tinez and Aman­da Clouser

We have had many con­ver­sa­tions this past year explor­ing invis­i­ble work done inside the home. This is any­thing from remem­ber­ing to send out the Mother’s Day cards on time to ensure that the toi­let paper is always stocked. As we talked about it in a per­son­al life con­text, we were intrigued to see how this could trans­late into the work­space. We were lucky enough to find resources avail­able regard­ing soft skills that employ­ees har­ness and use to bet­ter the com­pa­ny, even if it doesn’t direct­ly pro­duce deliverables.

When we think of glue work in the work­space, we think of rela­tion­ship build­ing, pro­fes­sion­al growth, hard con­ver­sa­tions over strin­gent poli­cies, and inten­tion­al process improvement.

We have seen Michi­gan­Labs be inten­tion­al about glue work as we have scaled up in com­pa­ny size, con­tin­u­ing to revis­it the busi­ness struc­ture fre­quent­ly and cre­ate new process­es and posi­tions when warranted.

Why is it impor­tant to sup­port glue work?

Devel­op­ers & UX design­ers are hired to write code or design an app, but com­pa­nies can­not run on just out­put alone. In all teams, there is inevitably some glue work” that must be done in order for success.

We all ben­e­fit from unseen and extra efforts made by our lead­er­ship and team mem­bers. With­out it, we would feel more like cogs in a machine than humans. Michi­gan­Labs is quick to sup­port endeav­ors sur­round­ing glue work by remind­ing us that our team and their skills are more than a means to an end.

Below are our favorite ways that glue work is sup­port­ed and encour­aged in our workplace:

Bond­ing opportunities

Rotat­ing lunch

Rotat­ing lunch is a month­ly team lunch with ran­dom­ized groups of 4 – 5 peo­ple from all posi­tions and teams in Michi­gan Soft­ware Labs.

As our team grows, we need to main­tain strong rela­tion­ships with our team mem­bers. Rotat­ing lunch allows us to reach out­side our day-to-day inter­ac­tions and con­nect with peo­ple we oth­er­wise might not.

Month­ly celebration

Month­ly cel­e­bra­tion is where we cel­e­brate all of the birth­days, work anniver­saries, and any oth­er notable events that are occur­ring that month.

It’s often hard in larg­er orga­ni­za­tions to rec­og­nize every cel­e­bra­to­ry event because there are too many of them, but being con­scious of cel­e­brat­ing these things every month is a fun way to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty and feel appreciated.

Quar­ter­ly cel­e­bra­tions with­in each project team

With the nature of our work, our project length varies. To cel­e­brate teams on longer projects or teams that don’t have a spe­cif­ic project (Busi­ness Ops) are acknowl­edged for their accomplishments.

Expand­ing prac­tices when too much is falling on one person

Expand­ing devel­op­ment leads

Being flex­i­ble with growth in a com­pa­ny is essen­tial to suc­cess. As our devel­op­ment team grew, we knew there were too many expec­ta­tions falling on our sin­gle devel­op­ment prac­tice lead with a group of ~20 devel­op­ers. To adapt, we expand­ed to hav­ing Prac­tice Co-Leads to share the weight of responsibilities.

Well­ness & Cul­ture Lead

When the com­pa­ny was small­er, it was eas­i­er to orga­nize team events by look­ing around the office and say­ing, Should we go to Culver’s?” With over thir­ty peo­ple now, com­pa­ny events & meet­ings require more coor­di­na­tion and time. This growth led to Michi­gan­Labs hir­ing some­one to sus­tain an engag­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture, focus­ing on team expe­ri­ence, well­ness and con­tin­u­ous efforts to cre­ate a space of belonging.

Pro­fes­sion­al Development

Book Clubs

At the begin­ning of 2020, a book club start­ed where groups would work through busi­ness books, dis­cussing and hon­ing skills applic­a­ble to our day-to-day life in the office. This oppor­tu­ni­ty has dou­bled as a space for team mem­bers to learn from oth­ers they do not reg­u­lar­ly work with.


Each year, all team mem­bers a stipend is giv­en to put toward a con­fer­ence or class that would fur­ther their knowl­edge in a top­ic of their choos­ing. This stipend allows our team mem­bers to invest in skills they are inter­est­ed in, fur­ther­ing their pro­fes­sion­al development.

Lunch & Learns

Month­ly, Michi­gan­Labs has the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a wide range of top­ics to be taught to team mem­bers. This not only enrich­es the over­all knowl­edge of the team but also pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion, com­mu­ni­ty, and growth.

Defin­ing & refin­ing practices

Quar­ter­ly Rocks/​OKRs

Every quar­ter our prac­tice leads and ser­vice group leads come togeth­er to define and dis­cuss our objec­tives for the upcom­ing months. This dri­ves con­tin­u­ous improve­ment and allows space for change and re-pri­or­i­ti­za­tion when needed.

Fri­day Feedback

We use Fri­day Feed­back as a mul­ti-func­tion­al tool that helps share infor­ma­tion, ideas, and feed­back with our lead­er­ship team. We use it for week­ly check-ins, asyn­chro­nous standups, send­ing team mem­bers Kudos,” sub­mit­ting ideas, and pulse sur­veys. All of this allows lead­er­ship to stay con­nect­ed with how the team is feel­ing.

It has been encour­ag­ing to see the lead­er­ship of Michi­gan­Labs pro­vides path­ways to sus­tain­ing our cul­ture through­out growth. Glue work is an essen­tial part of what keeps Michi­gan­Labs wel­com­ing and team mem­bers con­fi­dent in the company’s direction.

Amanda Clouser
Amanda Clouser
Development Practice Co-Lead

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