As someone who occasionally lives a coffee shop working lifestyle, I feel I have come to understand what are the bare requirements for “knowledge” working these days. In no particular order:

  • refreshments
  • a chair and table
  • somewhere to have a chat with someone
  • toilets
  • wifi
  • (ideally) a power socket
  • protection from the vagaries of the London weather

As such, the Minimum Viable Workplace is basically a coffee shop. They often could do with turning down the music and power sockets are usually in short supply, but you can get a surprising amount of work done in a coffee shop. It’s no coincidence, I would suggest, that the entire UK financial services industry can be traced back to coffee shops. (They didn’t need power sockets back then).


For some time now I’ve been espousing the idea of Platforms for Work. If we accept that the service design movement have shown that the best way to provide coherent products and services is to form multi-disciplinary teams to develop them, then organisations need to move beyond the traditional silos of business services – IT, HR, Finance, Legal, Facilities, Procurement. A cohesive platform for work would be best serviced by producing a support organisation that combines all of those disciplines into coherent teams.

The Minimum Viable Workplace, a coffee shop, would be a hard proposition for most businesses to create. You’d need to provide a combination of services from IT, HR, Finance, Legal, Facilities and and Procurement. Who’d own it? Who’d run it? Would it ever get delivered?

Now it’s easy to say “Just go to Starbucks”. That’s a valid response, but not really playing with the metaphor. If we were to produce a business support organisation that could provide a coffee shop and then build and iterate the service to become truly fit for purpose, you wouldn’t start with today’s silos.

You also probably wouldn’t start with the skills and experiences that currently sit in leadership positions within most business support functions. A few months ago I met the former head of a shared working space company, and he had come from previously running the business class lounge operation for a major international airline. That’s the sort of leadership experience you need to build commercially successful platforms for work.


So what? Well, in conjunction with the awesome Anne Marie Rattray, we are looking to bring together a small group of interested people from IT, HR, Finance, Facilities and other business support functions to explore the future of platforms for work.

Find out more here:

We’re running a workshop on 13 July in London – if you’d like to be involved please get in touch.

12 thoughts on “Minimum Viable Workplace

  1. Other than a decent kitchen (not just a token-driven hot fluid dispenser) I think you’ve nailed it.
    Any reading tips on multi-agency working, i.e. inter- not intra-company/org? As a recovering command-and-control type I am struggling to formulate a straw-man idea for others.

  2. Interesting notably with the increase in co-working space, the need for a formal office and its associated structure are starting to change. Would be interested to work with your group on platforms for work.

  3. Interesting piece, not sure any of us know what the workplace will look like in ten years, but it will certainly be different.
    The Working culture may change the landlords and investors aspirations as to how they present properties.

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