The Lean Coffee story

The Lean Coffee story

The following probably sounds familiar to many of us. You have a meeting with your team, but there is always too little time and there are too many agendas. We recently introduced a nice format in our work to have structured but 'agenda-less' meetings with our teams: Lean Coffee! In 2009 two men from Seattle came up with this idea of holding low key and open meetings with a group of people to discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work. This simple idea draws from the expertise and diversity around the table to build a shared agenda and a lively conversation in every single meeting. Why we love Lean Coffee? Because conversations are directed and productive, and the agenda for the meeting is generated democratically. Participants are willing to create and learn, bringing real value in every meeting. They discuss more of substance, waste less time and leave with real action items.

Lean Coffee at aFrogleap

At aFrogleap we started doing Lean coffee sessions with our teams to share knowledge within and between the disciplines, and over expertises, with the purpose of setting direction. The ingredients needed to set up Lean Coffee with your team? Coffee and a relaxed atmosphere. Post-its and pens, so that people can add in their own topics. A whiteboard to create a Personal Kanban of what's discussed. And a timer to box the time for discussion per topic (10 minutes).

Setting up Lean coffee

To discuss, discussing, discussed

Writing down ideas gives participants the opportunity to come up with 3 unique ideas or topics they want to talk about in this meeting. If needed, a topic gets a brief introduction to let the others in the group know what to vote for. By dot voting, the team prioritizes the topics in order of importance. You now have a list of topics everyone at the table is interested in and motivated to discuss.

Dot voting
Prioritize your topics in order of importance

Talk and vote

When starting with the first topic, the timer is leading. That makes this meeting simple and efficient. When the 10 minutes are up, it's time to vote by showing your thump...

Thumps up? You want to continue talking. The team needs more time to discuss the topic. Thumps sideways? You are neutral. At least you're not yet fed up with the topic. Thumps down? You are satisfied with the discussed topic. The team can move on to the next.

Thumps down is in this case great, because this will actually keep the momentum going for a fast and streamlined meeting.

All satisfied with Lean Coffee

This article is part of the identity blogs which aim to show what makes aFrogleap. Lean coffee shows how we generally try to set up our meetings. We are more specific on work methodology in our Agile series blogs, for example about How we work. Interested in knowing more about how Lean Coffee and other tools can benefit your work process? Get in touch with our agile coach Arthur, and he'll be happy to give you some of his best advise!