Matt Ballantine (@Ballantine70) and I are currently talking about the feasibility of bringing together diverse people, with diverse perspectives, to explore the practical implications of Matt’s Minimum Viable Workplaces concept.
I’m in complete agreement with his core proposition that:
” … 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.”
Matt also says that “the Minimum Viable Workplace is basically a coffee shop”. I think it depends on context, and would ask:
What’s the minimum that people need, individually and collectively, from platforms for work to let them do what they need to do?
Performance and Workplace Transformation
The recent JLL Future of Work report summarises issues involved in workplace transformation. It proposes a five-dimension framework for exploring “how and where work gets done”, in particular “real estate’s potential to help an organization achieve its ambitions”.
Having made high-level suggestions throughout the report, the JLL authors make some final recommendations:
- Align to the business
- Put people first
- Build a coalition
- Become technologically savvy
- Place a premium on adaptability
The JLL report is a useful resource to help explain our thinking behind the Minimum Viable Workplaces initiative. In my mind, it raises three points:
- Who creates performance environments, and how?
- Implications of size of organisations
- Issues involved in building coalitions
The JLL report is aimed at real estate specialists. Quotes throughout are predominantly from Vice Presidents and Senior Directors of Real Estate of global corporates. Real estate is one function, albeit a crucial one, that can lead an initiative to transform how work gets done.
Transforming how customer-focused work gets done can also be initiated by CEOs, Operations Directors, Finance Directors, Marketing Directors and HR Directors, who manage to gain support from others for what they want to do.
I think transforming how work gets done can come about in four other ways, beside being initiated by senior executives in large companies – whatever organisational function they represent:
- Distributed leadership
- Disruptive innovation
- Contextual adaptation
People do not just accept what they are given. They shape their work environments, which in turn influences how formal performance support is provided. The ‘bring your own device’ phenomenon from a few years back is a good example.
People taking their own superior digital devices to work changed the way personal devices were provided and supported in one large company. For people who did not want to use their own, the company initiated a policy of ‘choose your own device’. The push for this came from the self-directed way people were behaving.
Especially if they have skills and capabilities that in are demand, people are choosing where they want to work – from home, cafés, co-working centres, client facilities, on-the-go, etc..
Rather than going off-site to external destinations, what if people were given a minimum viable workplace that they could informally and autonomously adapt to suit themselves? For example, they could be encouraged to appropriate spaces for their own purposes using temporary, low-cost solutions like Magic Whiteboards.
As well as customising their experience of the devices they use and choosing to work from a range of places, social tools that connect us to people and resources are powering an explosion of do-it-yourself learning and self-directed performance at the point-of-need.
What’s the minimum viable support that people might need to shape their own platforms for work, in the way that they choose which apps they use?
Leadership is no longer, if it ever was, restricted to senior people. Organisations are fractal networks of relationships, influence, and cultural diversity. If the conditions are right, it is possible for local performance transformation within a wider organisational context.
How can these local leaders acquire and use minimum viable workplace insights to influence performance environments that let people get on with what they need to do?
And how could cross-disciplinary platforms for work teams best support them?
The coworking movement is an example of a freelancer-led movement that bubbled up from small, innovative providers of informal workspaces. Coworking is now mainstream. It is influencing how large companies provide workspace, with companies like WeWork expanding and going global.
The same thing applies to how technologies are contributing to disrupting workplace learning from expert-led courses to a focus on learning from connected, reflexive, and self-directed performance.
Examples and quotes throughout the JLL report are from large, global companies with annual operating revenues that can run into billions of dollars.
According to official statistics*, Small and Medium Enterprises, those employing 250 or fewer, represent 99.9 of all business in the UK. They are said to be responsible for employing 60% of the workforce, and generate 47% of total turnover.
How do research insights gleaned from large, global companies apply to SMEs? How can they be adapted for small company contexts? Do they need to be? What advantages or disadvantages might smaller companies have?
We think the minimum viable workplace concept might be particularly attractive to SMEs. What low-cost, creative approaches can they deploy?
And what of giant employers like the NHS? What do the diverse parts of this shift-working, some location-based and others peripatetic, under-pressure, workforce need?
How might cross-disciplinary teams support and facilitate minimum viable workplaces for all of the different contexts that were briefly described in the previous sections – and more?
We hope to be able to kick-start cross pollinating conversations online and, depending how it goes, getting together at events. The objective is to be inspired and learn from people in different work contexts, then taking ideas back into the workplaces and trying some of them out.
Find out more here: https://sites.google.com/stamplondon.co.uk/mimiumviableworkplace/home
*House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, Number 06512, 23rd November 2016