Rational Workplace

We believe in building a rational workplace and in making intelligent decisions. In any given situation, we believe that there is a “right answer” and a best way to do things, and we strive to reach them:

  • Use rational criteria to make the best decisions
    • Value ideas upon merit and always explain the “why”
    • Take the big picture into account and use the long-term view
    • Try to arrive at a win-win solution
    • Hold decisions to the sunlight test
    • Get the right people involved
    • Encourage conflict of ideas; discourage conflict between people
  • Benefit from the boundaryless organization
    • Let people into your stuff—leverage others’ expertise and perspective
    • Get into other people’s stuff—contribute to their projects
    • Use design reviews and brainstorming—many heads are always better than one
    • Share information, planning, and decision making
    • Use cross-functional teams to get things done
    • Encourage ownership, not control
  • Build a workplace where logic prevails
    • Seek to understand the “why” behind policies and rules
    • Value others based on their knowledge and contribution, not their position
    • Use the same “rules” for everybody—equality and consistency are important
    • Endeavor to reward excellence and avoid entitlement
    • Work to build an environment free of politics
    • Fix problems that interfere with productive work

Processes and Programs That Support Rational Workplace

Advisory Teams

Each business group within the company has an advisory team. This team is composed of people from areas in the company with a special connection with or expertise in this particular business group. The advisory team helps the business group set priorities, solve problems, and see the big picture. Business groups meet with their advisory teams once a quarter to review progress on objectives, examine metrics, and develop new plans and directions.

Best Practices

We have very few rules at MathWorks. Instead, we use a collection of best practices, or procedures developed by individuals or groups that have proven successful enough to merit adoption by others in the company. Examples include how to run a meeting, how to write a performance review (or self review), and how to interview a job applicant. Best practices encourage creative thinking and allow us to benefit from one another's experience and ingenuity. We believe that they are more effective and more motivating than formal rules and lengthy procedures manuals.



Boundaryless mean the opposite of having borders/boundaries, which are lines or areas separating things. We want people at MathWorks to think beyond the borders. In practical terms, people should offer assistance and help out other teams, departments, and areas of the company. People should also be willing to accept ideas and help from other areas.

The opposite of this is to say “that’s not my job,” or “I don’t need to listen to him.”

Design review

At MathWorks, a “design review” is an opportunity for others to help you to analyze and improve something, whether it is a plan you have prepared or a product concept or a design you have developed. We believe in teamwork, and reviews are a way to get a whole team on the same page. We also believe that even the best idea from the most senior person can be improved by having lots of others look at it, challenge it, and recommend ways to improve it.

For more information on design reviews, read Bob Colwell’s “At Random” column from Computer magazine (October 2003). © 2005 IEEE. Reprinted, with permission, from Computer magazine.


“Endeavor” means to make a strong and active effort.

“Entitlement” means a feeling that something is owed to you, not earned. “Entitlement” also means granting rewards and privileges based on rank, role, or simply for being part of the organization, or having a specific title or role. As people and as an organization, we need to avoid both types of “entitlement.”


In this statement. “ownership” implies stewardship: taking responsibility and providing guidance, and management.

“Control” implies wanting to have power over something or having command of something. It also implies selfish and arbitrary behavior.

We want a work environment that encourages people to be good stewards.


Politics mean to maneuver within a group in order to gain control or power. It means to advance ones own interest sometimes in direct opposition to the good of the company. It is the opposite of “do the right thing.”

Sunlight test

The “sunlight test” for a decision means making it public for inspection and discussion (“putting it in the sunlight”). A decision that “passes the sunlight test” is one that is logical, rational, and fair. How do you “Hold decisions to the sunlight test”? You imagine yourself explaining your idea or decision in front of everyone at MathWorks, and you ask yourself if they would understand your rationale. Commonly, you will hear people say, “Will that pass the sunlight test?”


A win-win solution results in benefits for two people or groups who are on opposite sides of an issue or idea. This is often possible because both sides have interests that can be satisfied if they are willing to look at the disagreement from a different perspective.